Scottish vessels have a long history of participation in the Isle of Man King scallop fishery, especially vessels from the south west of Scotland where the island’s territorial sea borders Scottish waters. The financial benefit of the resource helps sustain jobs, both on vessels and on land in many of our coastal communities.
Arrangements for the management of the Isle of Man’s territorial sea are set out in a Fisheries Management Agreement that sets out the system for the introduction of new measures by the Isle of Man Government. Included in this agreement are provisions around consulting on proposed management measures and commitments to ensure that measures are transparent, non-discriminatory and allow for fair access.
On Friday 22 December 2017 the Scottish Government was informed by the scallop industry that the Isle of Man Minister had instructed that he would be introducing a requirement for vessels involved in the fishery to report daily into an Isle of Man port from Monday 8 January 2018 to prevent the alleged misreporting of catch - a significant undertaking for vessels based outside the Isle of Man that would not ordinarily land into the island. Throughout this process no formal notification was provided, indeed they expected us to act on a press release issued in the Isle of Man.
Marine Scotland sought urgent clarification. However, no clarification was received until 3 January 2018. Following discussions the Isle of Man agreed to delay the introduction of the management measure by a week, to allow for officials from our respective administrations to discuss the level and risk of misreporting and practical level of compliance.
The Scottish Government has been clear in discussions with the Isle of Man that daily reporting:
raises significant health and safety concerns in this winter fishery
has a clear discriminatory effect on Scottish vessels relative to Isle of Man based ones
has not undergone the proper consultation process set out in the Fisheries Management Agreement
is not as effective as other measures, indeed for this species this measure is fundamentally flawed, if the intention is to prevent misreporting of catch
The Scottish Government has advocated several alternative measures including an alternative that works to prevent misreporting in Scottish waters that is targeted, proportionate, does not impose a blanket restriction that penalises legitimate fishing activity and does not disadvantage any one sector of vessels.
Unfortunately the Isle of Man has not listened to our concerns. There has been a clear breach of process and the Fisheries Management Agreement has broken down. We therefore have no alternative but to proceed with the dispute resolution mechanism set out in the Fisheries Management Agreement.
An invitation from Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, to his Isle of Man counterpart Geoffrey Boot MHK, for talks in Edinburgh next week to discuss these issues was refused, however of course this remains open.