26th March '24

Politicians from across the aisles pledge to protect fishing

Major exhibition inspires over three days at Scottish Parliament

MORE THAN 50 MSPs including three party leaders have put their names to a pledge that commits them to protect and support Scotland’s vital fishing industry and coastal communities.

Among the signatories to the pledge include over half of all backbench MSPs, Anas Sarwar, Alex Cole-Hamilton and Douglas Ross, Scottish party leaders of Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives respectively, as well as senior figures from the SNP and Alba.

The backing comes as the sector is represented by a moving exhibition featuring portraits and accounts of those working in and around fishing, including vessel owners, skippers, deckhands, scientists and analysts.

“Pride in the Seas” is an exhibition and campaign run by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) in partnership with renowned photographer Ian Georgeson and was held in the Garden Lobby at Holyrood between 19 and 21 March.

Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands said: “The spirit and vitality of our fishing industry and coastal communities is something of which we should all be rightly proud, and which is powerfully captured by this exhibition.

“The Scottish fishing industry is world renowned and remains at the forefront of sustainable fishing practices. It helps support many jobs around the country and is embedded in our culture.

“The Scottish Government shares the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s vision of a fishing industry that endures and thrives.

“Through robust evidence and marine planning we will continue to work with all sectors to manage the increased competition for our shared marine space, supporting commitments to net zero, protection of the marine environment, energy security, food security, and thriving communities.”

The pledge signed by politicians called on enhanced support of Scotland’s fishing communities, fishing’s role in food security, the importance of protection against loss of access to key fishing grounds and ensuring that policies recognise and support fishing’s role in producing low carbon, healthy and nutritious food.

Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive with the SFF, said: “It has been heartening to see so many MSPs and their teams engage very positively with us over the last few days.

“Given Scotland’s geography, many have coastal fishing communities within their constituencies and know first hand of the pressures that they – and the industry as a whole – has been under in recent years. It was great also to have MSPs from more urban and inland parts of Scotland recognise the importance of our sector, and to give us their support.

“Fishing has a vital role in food security and the country’s net zero aspirations – and the provision of sustainably sourced and low-carbon protein has never been more vital.

“This exhibition taps into the inherent pride and responsibility that those working in fishing feel and whilst there will always be things we can improve on, it is characterised by responsible, innovative businesses seeking to improve conditions for the next generation.”

Following its debut, the exhibition will be available for tour across towns, schools, museums and other public facilities around the country.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023 the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation was established to represent a sustainable, prosperous fishing industry in Scotland. It was borne in response to the need for greater political engagement when the UK joined the EU and in adapting to the first oil exploration which saw the proliferation of other activities in the historic fishing grounds of the North Sea.

Fighting for the interests of 450 fishing vessels in Scotland’s fleet, the federation is made up of eight Associations which represent the sector from small creel boats to large pelagic and white fish trawlers.

The Pledge:

I pledge to support Scotland’s fishing communities by:

  • Supporting fishermen at sea and their colleagues ashore as a vital part of Scotland’s food story
  • Being a champion of the healthy, nutritious and sustainable food they produce
  • Being proud of this low carbon, climate-smart food sector
  • Supporting the call for strong, focused science to increase understanding
  • Backing the sector to get a fair deal in our crowded seas
  • Agreeing that food security is as important as energy security
  • Working with fishermen and fishing communities to ensure that they don’t just survive but will thrive in the decades to come.

I have Pride in our Seas, and all those who feed us from them.

Pride in the Seas case studies:

  • Trevor Spouse, Skipper in Eyemouth
  • Mark Anderson, Skipper, and son Nicol, Deckhand, in Shetland
  • Colin Stephen, Skipper in Peterhead
  • Mark Robertson, part-owner, and sons Paul and Adam, Skippers, in Fraserburgh
  • Willie John McLean, Skipper in Mallaig
  • Erin Mackenzie, Deckhand in Mallaig
  • Dr Steve Mackinson, Chief Scientist, Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association
  • Dr Paul Macdonald, Senior Fisheries Analyst, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Elena Balestri, Senior Fisheries Policy and Science Manager, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation

The full exhibition and case studies are now available to view on the SFF website: https://www.sff.co.uk/news/category/pride-in-the-seas

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