Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC): terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Fisheries Management and Conservation Group.


To support the delivery of Scotland’s Fisheries Management Strategy and deliver sustainable and responsible sea fisheries management.

Overview of role

FMAC will provide strategic support for the delivery of the Scottish Government’s Fisheries Management Strategy, helping to shape the development and implementation of key policies contained within the Strategy, and working as part of a co-management approach to develop solutions to fisheries management and conservation challenges in our shared marine space.

FMAC will engage at a strategic level with the wider Scottish Government and international strategic agenda, particularly around key developments such as the Strategy for Seafood, National Marine Plan, the Blue Economy vision and relevant wider cross-cutting policy such as the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. It will also respond accordingly to pressures of national significance such as impacts on fishing sector of the cost of living crisis. It will consider and make links across the wider supply chain, particularly in relation to areas of a cross-cutting nature.

Decision making and advisory role

FMAC members will work together to develop recommendations for Ministers, using their collective knowledge and expertise, seeking input from their members, tasking sub-groups, and delivering consensus wherever possible. FMAC will strive to reach consensus on agreed approaches wherever possible and this will likely require understanding and compromise to deliver. The Scottish Government will provide timely feedback to FMAC on the outcome of Ministerial decisions.

The ultimate responsibility for delivering fisheries management in Scotland lies with Scottish Ministers and any recommendations made by FMAC should be viewed as advisory.

The work of the FMAC should be transparent, mutually respective of all partners and with a presumption of “no surprises”.

It is not intended that FMAC be formally constituted, and FMAC will not have policy-making or legislative powers. Rather, FMAC will be the key fisheries management advisory body to Scottish Ministers. The views of FMAC will be conveyed to Scottish Ministers, including where there are differing views amongst FMAC members and where a consensus has not been reached.

More general debate and opinion on fisheries management issues will be sought by the Scottish Government through the public consultation process.

Roles and responsibilities

FMAC members will:

  • support the aims of the FMAC group
  • be transparent in their membership and who they represent
  • seek to achieve consensus, listening to different sides of the discussion
  • act in a courteous and professional way
  • ensure, so far as possible, that there is a fair balance between economic, social and environmental factors in their recommendations for Ministers
  • consult with their members as required, in order to help with informed decision-making and to avoid input based on personal opinions only
  • act as communicators, to disseminate information to their members as appropriate
  • task sub-groups to take forward specific discussions and issues as needed, and taking account of the output from sub-groups when discussing and seeking to achieve a consensus view. Membership of subgroups should be reflective of the particular issue tasked for discussion
  • understand that consensus will not always be possible, and that ultimate decision-making rests with Scottish Ministers
  • contribute to agenda items at meetings, and raise their own agenda items for discussion
  • take forward action points assigned to them within a reasonable timescale
  • seek to understand, take account of and support the delivery of national and international outcomes and legislative commitments, including those set out in the Fisheries Act 2020, the Scottish Fisheries Management Strategy and the Joint Fisheries Statement

The Scottish Government will:

  • provide the secretariat and the chair for the FMAC group
  • use FMAC as its main stakeholder group for fisheries management, ensuring that FMAC acts as a funnel for issues and strategic discussions to be directed through
  • put matters on the agenda at the written request of members. Agendas and papers will be circulated at least 7 days in advance of any meeting
  • seek to engage early with FMAC on emerging issues and policies, to ensure that FMAC can properly engage early on it in the process, recognising that there may be instances where we cannot discuss certain aspects of policy development until this has been agreed/cleared by Scottish Ministers
  • take responsibility for the drafting and circulating of relevant meeting papers, recognising that members may wish to put forward papers also
  • ensure that all meetings are recorded for the written record, and that meeting papers, agendas and minutes are published on the Marine Scotland website as soon as reasonably possible
  • ensure that actions from meetings are taken forward by designated leads, and that decisions from Scottish Ministers are communicated back to the group in a timely way
  • seek to involve all FMAC members in discussions and ensure that a balance of views is heard
  • provide sufficient time for discussion and debate of key issues and policies, to allow the group to establish whether consensus positions can be reached
  • provide advice to members to assist understanding how discussions and decisions fit within the wider strategic context at a national and international level
  • ensure that membership of FMAC (and its subgroups) is fair and balanced

Meeting frequency and structure

Set meetings will take place three times a year. The meeting at the beginning of the year will:

  • focus on the strategic and policy direction for the year ahead
  • agree any sub-groups required to undertake detailed work on policies or issues, and the reporting mechanism for those groups
  • identify key strategic fisheries management and relevant conservation issues and agree how FMAC requires to engage in these
  • involve updates from the Scottish Government, including policy, science and compliance functions, and updates from members as they see fit
  • bring in wider issues outwith the realms of fisheries management and conservation e.g. offshore energy/aquaculture/shared marine space as appropriate

The meeting at the middle of the year will focus on issues requiring substantive discussion, along with updates from the FMAC subgroups (noting that updates from subgroups are expected to happen on a rolling basis).

The meeting at the end of the year will:

  • focus on the end year negotiations, including approach and issues
  • recap on the achievements and challenges of the year to date, and horizon scan for key developments and challenges for the next 12 month period

Ad hoc meetings will take place in addition to the set meetings as required by the group. The Scottish Government will be responsible for calling, arranging and funding the costs of holding meetings. FMAC members can request ad hoc meetings as required. Individual members are responsible for their own travel and subsistence costs.

Where possible, the set meetings will be in person. Ad hoc meetings are likely to be virtual. Frequency and structure of meetings will be reviewed by FMAC in early 2024.


Initial FMAC membership will be agreed by the Scottish Government. All members are expected to have a material interest and knowledge of fisheries management and conservation in Scotland. There will be no weighting attributed to members views, no fixed balance of environment versus industry groups, no votes and no right of veto. However, all members are expected to respect the different viewpoints of others and to acknowledge the legitimacy of different points of view.

All FMAC members that are acting on behalf of a representative group will provide details of their membership to the Scottish Government. For industry representatives, this will include sharing details of vessels. This information will be held confidentially and will be used only for the purposes outlined. For other groups, e.g. environmental groups, members will provide details of who they represent and how they seek to engage their membership in forming positions. It is assumed that views expressed by FMAC members are on behalf of their membership only. 

The Scottish Government will require to be satisfied that these conditions have been met prior to agreeing FMAC membership.

Any group failing to meet the standards expected of FMAC members will no longer be a member of FMAC. This will be at the discretion of the Scottish Government.

New members will be required to submit an application to join which shall be considered by the FMAC group. Ultimate decisions on membership shall be made by the Scottish Government.


FMAC will work as a hub and spoke model. FMAC will form the main advisory body, with subgroups sitting around it to discuss issues in more detail and provide advice back to the main group. This will be through a combination of meetings and correspondence via email. Each group will consider both fisheries management and wider relevant marine issues in the round.

Membership of subgroups will be expected to reflect the subject matter under discussion.

The subgroups are not fixed, and the number, type and focus will depend on the issues requiring discussion and further work. In particular, technical groups to support detailed policy development are likely to be required on an ad hoc basis. It is likely that some sub-groups will be long term and others of a short term nature.

Some subgroups will be short-life, whilst others are likely to be long-running. FMAC should agree the work, structure and remit of subgroups, and also agree reporting timescales back into the main FMAC group.

All subgroups will appoint a chair who will be responsible for ensuring that a minute is taken of all meetings, and that feedback / updates are provided to FMAC on a regular basis.

As a minimum we anticipate subgroups on the following topics:

  • inshore fisheries (all RIFG chairs will be part of this group)
  • Scottish scallop sector (building on Scottish scallop sector working group (SSSWG))
  • climate change
  • future catching policy and discards (also linked to specific technical level workshops) – this group will also consider additional monitoring tools
  • research and evidence base
  • fisheries management plans

Additional groups will be identified and agreed by FMAC. 

It is likely that some FMAC members will be directly involved in subgroups. The subgroups may also seek input from others who are not FMAC members, e.g. to get specific technical expertise and knowledge. It is also anticipated that active members of the fishing industry will be involved in subgroups.

There will be natural cross-over between some of the subgroups, and Chairs of the sub-groups should seek to engage with each other to identify areas of common interest and to avoid duplication.

Subgroups will not be asked to make decisions, but will be tasked with exploring issues, developing solutions, and providing advice and recommendations to the main FMAC group.

Terms of reference will be developed for each of the groups and members will be expected to follow the same standards and deliver the same transparency as that around FMAC itself.

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