Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said the proposed legislation “sets a completely new framework for fisheries management outside the universally detested [EU] Common Fisheries Policy”.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said having more powers was required before the end of March 2019 regardless of whether the UK strikes a Brexit deal or not.
The bill is being introduced to parliament by the UK Government today (Thursday) as it looks to deliver “the promise to take back control of our waters”.
It says the legislation will enable the UK to control who may fish in its waters and on what terms, as well as give it the power to implement new deals negotiated with the EU and with other coastal states.
The Scottish Government would receive new powers to regulate its sea fisheries resources to preserve the marine environment, as well as ones to “tackle aquatic animal diseases, ensuring any threat is dealt with as quickly as possible and protecting the vitally important and valuable Scottish fish farming industry”.
The UK Government says the new legislation proposes ways for it and the four devolved fisheries administrations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – to work together adopt common approaches to fisheries management in certain areas.
The bill “preserves UK – and therefore Scotland’s – vessels’ right to fish across all four zones of UK waters and creates a consistent approach to managing access of foreign vessels”.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “The fishing industry is of vital importance to Scotland and that is why the Fisheries Bill, combined with our withdrawal from the EU, will give more decision making powers to the Scottish Government.
“This new Fisheries Bill will allow us to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for all of the UK. It will regenerate coastal communities, take back control of our waters and, through better conservation measures, allow our precious marine environment to thrive.
“The Common Fisheries Policy has damaged the UK’s fishing industry and our precious fish stocks. The Bill will deliver a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.”
Armstrong commented that the federation trusts that the UK and Scottish governments will to “work together in harmony to seize the sea of opportunity that stretches out before us”.
“The Scottish Government’s own figures suggest that this could be worth an additional £540 million per year to the seafood industry plus a total of 5,000 new jobs,” he continued.
“And it is accessible through an effective and reactive fisheries management regime that avoids placing unnecessary constraints on skippers and crew doing a difficult job at sea.”
Founder of campaign group Fishing for Leave Aaron Brown said that “many who have fought for 25 years to escape the disastrous CFP thought we would never see this day”.
But he warned that the “devil is in the detail, as the government admits this bill is subject to the wider negotiations”.
“Negotiations where disgustingly Theresa May proposes to re-obey the CFP after Brexit with an ever-extending transition and a Chequers plan that will see the UK obey a ‘common rule book’ – probably forever,” Brown said.