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Marine / UK Government commits to looking at threat of spatial squeeze

SNP MP hints at positive outcome of gillnetting consultation

THE UK’s new fishing minster Mark Spencer has given a commitment to produce a “future vision and the uses of our seas” after being pressed by isles MP Alistair Carmichael who was voicing the concern of local fishermen that they are being squeezed out of their traditional grounds by renewable energy projects and other industrial developments.

During a fisheries debate in the Commons at the end of last week, Carmichael raised a number of issues of concern to the wider fishing industry including what is known as spatial squeeze.

On another controversial topic – gillnetting – the newly appointed minister insisted that it was for the Scottish Government to decide whether or not the industrial use of the damaging fishing practice should be banned in Scottish waters.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael in Parliament.

The Orkney and Shetland MP said that if nothing is being done by 2050 fishing could be excluded from as much as 56 per cent of Scottish waters.

“The industry is increasingly concerned about a number of different threats, some of which will, if they are not addressed now, be existential for the industry or parts of it,” he added.

“We have seen the coming of oil and gas industry pipelines, electricity cables, fibre-optic cables and now the growth of offshore renewables, such as electricity generation.

“If nobody acts now and we do not find a proper strategic approach to this issue, all of those things will squeeze fishing to the margins.”

In response Spencer, the MP for Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, said: “I recognise the growing spatial tensions between sea users, including fishermen, and offshore wind, as well as the need to conserve and enhance our marine environment.

“We are considering the cumulative impacts of fisheries displacement, because when we move people aside or move them further, that has a cost implication.

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“It means that people have to steam further to get to the fish stocks that they want to catch, and of course that means moving people from their traditional fishing areas, but we will get through that. We will consider the future vision and the uses of our seas in due course.”

On the topic of gillnetting the new minister added: “Gillnetting is something that lies with Marine Scotland; it is within the control of the Scottish Government.”

Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, confirmed that the Scottish Government was currently consulting on the future on gillnetting and added that was also aware that “Green colleagues” in Shetland were standing with Lib Dems when lobbying on the issue.

“He [Mark Spencer] is right that it is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, but I know my colleagues, so we will wait and see what happens,” Wishart said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to put a big smile on his face when he talks about these issues in the future.”

Meanwhile Carmichael called on the new fishing minister to fully engage in the forthcoming fish quota negotiations with Norway and the EU.

“The minister has a number of substantial tasks on his plate between now and the end of the year,” he said.

“The EU-UK-Norway talks have taken the place that arguably they always did have, rather than the December Fisheries Council, which we all tended to obsess about. Those talks are the focus of what will be on his agenda.

“If the minister goes away with no other message from today’s debate, I ask him to take this away: his chances of getting the best possible deal for our fishing industry will always be increased the more he talks to and listens to the industry itself.

“I do not know how many fisheries ministers I have seen come and go over the years, but the difference between a good one and a bad one has always been their willingness to engage with the industry. There is good will and there is a wealth of expertise there, but it has to be asked for.”


The full text of the fisheries debate can be found here.

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