27th March '23

Statement on New First Minister

Scottish fishermen are urging the new First Minister to work with their industry to help it flourish at a time when most key stocks are in excellent condition and being fished sustainably, yet government policies risk damaging climate-smart healthy food production.

Welcoming the election of Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s new leader, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Elspeth Macdonald said the efforts of skippers over many decades had put fishing in a strong position, as shown by the Scottish Government’s own figures on sustainability.

However, the imposition of strict conservation zones – Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) – in 10% of Scotland’s waters on top of the 37% already restricted by Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the absence of any clear ecological objectives, and the development of huge offshore windfarms, would threaten the industry’s existence by squeezing it out of key fishing grounds, she said.

“I welcome Mr Yousaf as our new First Minister and look forward to meaningful dialogue with him on how government can support our industry now and in the future. In particular, we would welcome a re-appraisal of the Bute House Agreement as it relates to fishing.

“We have highlighted our concerns about HPMAs and offshore windfarms, which a specialist study has shown could close more than 50% of Scottish waters to vessels by 2050.

“And on Friday the Crown Estate Scotland announced another 13 offshore wind projects under the Innovation and Targeted Oil & Gas (INTOG) round east of Aberdeenshire which will effectively close a further 1600km2 of the sea for between 25 and 50 years at least. These projects could significantly impact the nephrops sector and further restrict the industry’s ability to operate profitably.

“These new projects have been announced before the government’s INTOG plan has even been finalised, which raises questions about government’s approach to marine planning.

“And they come in addition to 17 offshore wind projects announced last year under the ScotWind round.

“Fishermen are not opposed to offshore wind in principle, but they need to be much more involved and listened to at the earliest planning stage to ensure that an industry with an already low carbon footprint – and one that is a vital source of healthy protein as well as being important for food security – is not sacrificed by the renewables juggernaut.”

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