The Sustainable Fisheries working group is the forum within the SFF that deals with any science or environmental led issues. The working group oversees SFF work on a range of subjects including:

  • Scientific output
  • Stock sustainability/certification
  • Energy and marine renewables policy
  • Marine legislation
  • Habitat and wildlife legislation
  • Environmental policy
  • The Independent On-board Observer Scheme

Sustainable Fisheries – Scientific output is discussed at the working group. The annual science round which starts with the various stock assessments begins in May with output from these assessments arriving twice yearly around June and August.

Once digested by the working group, the scientific output gives some idea of the likely outcomes at the various end of year negotiations.

The SFF Environmental Policy Statement sets out the Federation’s positions on a range of environmental matters.

The Sustainable Fisheries working group took this initiative as it was felt that such a document would help explain the Scottish industry’s sustainability and environmental credentials to a wider audience than just the industry itself.

The Sustainable Fisheries working group invites representation from Marine Scotland Policy and Marine Scotland Science to most of its meetings so that representatives from these organisations can keep the industry abreast of any issues relating to them. Committee members believe that having external attendance at the meetings adds value as they often bring extremely useful insight to many of the issues discussed.

Gear Group Seeks to Advance Discard Reduction

By Jennifer Mouat of the Aegir Consultancy

The Gear Innovation Technology and Advisory Group (GITAG)seeks to build on the body of work around gear selectivity and catch and discards reducing devices.

The Group was formed in the second half of 2015 after the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s wholly owned subsidairy company SFF Services  had secured funding from Marine Scotland to develop and trial innovative fishing gear  exploring practical solutions aimed at reducing the amount of discards.

One of the difficult aspects of managing a commercial fishery, which targets a wild population, is that you don’t know exactly what fish will be caught.  In mixed fisheries of this sort, discarding, or high grading, can be an issue. The stock would be larger and the fishery more productive if these fish grew to a larger size and also had an opportunity to spawn to safeguard future generations.

There has been a substantial amount of work undertaken historically to develop and test innovative and more selective fishing gears.  Marine Scotland Science, Seafish and other bodies have all assisted to develop selective devices and test the effectiveness of each one.

It should be noted that many of the trials which have been undertaken have focused on the Cod Recovery Programme and therefore were very much focused on the non capture of cod, although there is some limited data on other species. We now seek to encourage skippers and fishers from all sectors to put forward innovative ideas for more selective gears which will help their targeted  fishery become more sustainable

GI T A G aims to address these research and development gaps by working with key partners including industry, Marine Scotland Policy, Marine Scotland Science, Producer Organisations, the Scottish Industry Discards Initiative and Seafish to promote and encourage innovation from the fishing industry as a whole.

A first phase of this project has seen four applications come forward from skippers for various different gears to be trialed in different locations.  A second phase will be developed over the next months in consultation with industry to develop further trials with the purpose of assisting skippers manage their responsibilities under the landing obligation.  Phase two will look to work with all sectors and will develop gears which will offer choice of options and solutions over the coming years.  Projects which are taken forward under GITAG will have trial gear and charters fully funded with derogations to cover quota and days where appropriate.

Further information is available from Malcolm Morrison (

This project is supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Scottish Government.

Article by Ray Hilborn