President’s Message 2019

The unmistakably dominant issue of the past year has been Brexit, and the question of how it will unfold for fishing. As a Federation we have continued to illuminate the Sea of Opportunity that the change of governance of our waters will bring. No effort has been spared in pressing our case to every level of decision-maker and to the public, for a managed, beneficial expansion, using the upcoming sovereignty over the sea space and resources that are ours, at Brexit, under international law. All the right lines are embedded firmly in the policy underpinning negotiations with the EU. What we need now is the political will in governments to bring it home. It’s our fish, in our waters.

This year’s scientific advice indicates that ups and downs in fishing opportunity will as usual be the end result of the last negotiating season that we spend as a Member State of the European Union. We look forward to a future with the realisable potential of becoming an international leader in scientifically evidenced, sustainable fishing. SFF continues to play a valuable part in this effort through the SFF Services operated Independent On-Board Observer Scheme (IOOS) and Gear Innovation and Technology Advisory Group (GITAG). These European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Scottish Government funded projects help gather important fisheries management data and facilitate the development and trial of innovative fishing gears, exploring practical solutions aimed at reducing the amount of discards.

Full implementation in 2019 of the Landing Obligation or Discard Ban under the terms laid down in the CFP will begin at the turn of the year. There is universal commitment to ending discarding, but no one connected with the practical operation of the industry is in any doubt that the ban will fail in its present form. It is a political rather than practical set of rules. Brexit will provide the tools to make it work in our waters, like Norway does, by matching catching opportunity with what is actually in the sea but for the immediate future, our politicians must be brave and produce a political solution. We will help.

The essential markets for the Scottish industry with its high quality seafood are presently strong, both in traditional areas and in some new ones such as the emerging demand for brown crab in South Korea and China. There are strong national targets for expansion, applying at just the right time for Brexit’s managed expansion to play a full part in their achievement. Full market utilisation depends on coherently joined up supply chains though all stages from net to consumer. We note the birth of the Scottish Seafood Association of processors and we will work hard to play our part in building strength through cooperation.

Wide-ranging international regulations on safety and welfare – ILO 188, will be a feature of 2019. The wellbeing of our people at sea is central to our activities and the SFF is committed to working with the MCA to ensure that the implementation period goes as smoothly as possible.

And finally, a notable landmark from 2018 has been the award total made by the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust has passed the £1M.

I wish you all a safe and prosperous 2019.


Ian Gatt

SFF President