8th January '24

Dr Paul Macdonald

"Co-management is essential for balancing objectives and delivering sustainable fisheries. The industry has a vital role to play in this process."

Location: Edinburgh

Job: Senior Fisheries Analyst, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation

Focussing primarily on science and policy for the Scottish Fishermen's Organisation (SFO), Paul Macdonald plays a pivotal role informing fisheries management in Scotland. With nearly 30 years of experience spanning deckhand work, scientific research and now policy advocacy, Paul offers a balanced perspective.

On any given day, Paul may be meeting with government representatives or SFO vessels, conducting studies on fishing stocks, or developing innovative tools to support sustainable fishing.

Recently, Paul led on the collaborative development of an electronic bycatch avoidance app that allows fishermen to share real-time data on unwanted bycatch hotspots. The first of its kind in Europe, this innovative project demonstrates the industry’s commitment to sustainability.

Paul sees the spread of misconceptions as a significant threat facing the industry today. “We spend a lot of time countering misconceptions about the industry, whether it relates to accusations of destruction of the seabed and marine ecosystems, indiscriminately hoovering up fish and leaving nothing behind, or impacts on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions," he explains.

Despite most fish stocks showing marked improvements under current management measures, these false narratives can negatively impact public perception. He feels open communication and sensible, collaborative policymaking is key to a thriving future.

When asked about his proudest professional achievement, Paul points to successes developing scientific evidence that translates into sustainable quotas and appropriate regulations.

“When you see management measures and policy put in place that provide a balanced approach to managing fisheries, that’s quite rewarding,” he explains. By working on developing solutions to the challenges facing the industry, Paul helps fishermen operate viable, sustainable businesses.

While unknowns like climate change loom as potential obstacles, Paul remains upbeat about the sector's prospects and points to co-management between government and fishermen as being key to success in the future.

He added, “If industry and government work together, there is real potential for the industry to be profitable, to produce healthy products Scotland can be proud of and to contribute to thriving rural communities.”

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