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Marine / Ewing opens national fishing talk-shop in Orkney

Quotas, discards and fleet expansion are themes

A DISCUSSION paper on the future of fishing in Scotland is being launched today by fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing in Orkney.

Ewing is meeting representatives from the fishing industry in Kirkwall on Monday in the first of a series of similar meetings across Scotland, allowing fishing interests to have their say in what a new strategy for fisheries management should look like.

The rural economy secretary is in Orkney as part of the Convention of Highlands and Islands, a regular forum for local authority leaders to meet government ministers to discuss pressing topics such as the impact of Brexit and transport. The convention will be chaired by deputy first minister John Swinney.

Among the “key priorities” outlined in the fisheries discussion paper are making sure Scottish waters and fishing opportunities are not “traded away by the UK government”, and urging the introduction of a new work permit system to secure sustainable labour supply for fishing industry.

The paper also prioritises continuing the use of Total Allowable Catch (TACs) as the primary stock management tool and tweaking the discard ban to make it more workable.

Fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing.

It says that Scottish fishing quota should be in the hands of active Scottish fishermen and additional licenses and quota should be created to support new entrants.

Launching the paper, Ewing said: “Scotland has a rich fishing culture and heritage and it is vital that we build on that sustainably for the future.

“Brexit will inevitably bring changes in the way in which we manage our fisheries and also the relationships which we will have with our friends and colleagues from other seafaring nations.

“Whatever the future holds, Scotland’s role as a world-leading fisheries nation, and as a responsible and sustainable manager of this important natural resource, will continue.  This discussion paper will help us develop our approach to local management and partnership working that we already have in place.”

Ewing said it was vital that fishing interests come together to shape the future approach, and that everyone involved in fishing has their say in that process.

“Only by doing so can we best manage our natural resources sustainably, and ensure the brightest possible future for fishing in this country,” he added.

The discussion paper is intended to act as a catalyst for the industry to move forward together, and “develop ideas which can help deliver an inclusive, productive approach.”

He added: “I’m delighted to begin those discussions here in Orkney, where fishing has been the lifeblood of coastal communities for centuries.”

The discussion paper is available on the Scottish Government website from 8am.