I am delighted to publish a National Discussion Paper on what fisheries management in Scotland should look like and aim to deliver in the future.
Scotland’s relationship with the sea is a long and productive one. From the largest port to the smallest quayside our fishers and our fishing communities take pride in delivering high quality produce in a sustainable way. Scotland’s fish stocks are a common resource and invaluable national asset. It is imperative that whilst we seek to manage to optimise inclusive economic growth we do so in a sustainable and responsible manner. A progressive and dynamic industry will require rapid and responsive decision making systems.
We are rightly recognised for leading the way in adapting our fishing methods and techniques, using technology to drive forward developments and maximising our influence within Europe and the rest of the world.
But we also stay true to our roots, ensuring that the lifeblood of many rural coastal communities continues to support local jobs and local ways of life. The structure of the fishing industry and the stocks targeted are markedly different for Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.
I want everyone to know how pleased I am to be your representative at a time of historic change. My admiration for the industry, its achievements, the resilience and bravery of our fishermen remains undiminished. Brexit in whatever shape 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.
But how we will conduct ourselves in the future is not uncertain. It will not change.
We will continue to behave responsibly. We will continue to manage our natural resources sustainably. We will continue to support local communities and secure the future of our fishing industry for many years to come. We will always be ambitious, striving to improve and aiming high.
And whilst the nature of the relationships which we have with our friends and colleagues from other seafaring nations may shift in the future, the fundamental building blocks of working together in a productive and mutually beneficial way will remain firmly in place.
I believe that partnership working is vital to our future success. Conflict and tension between different industries and sectors can often feel inevitable. But we must work together to overcome these difficulties, to trust each other and deliver Scotland’s fisheries in partnership. It is for these very reasons I believe this national discussion is the right start point, everyone must have the opportunity to express an opinion, and not just an opinion on a list of pre-determined measures. Top down will not work, this must be a collective approach.
I know that we share a number of common goals and we should seek to build on these as we develop our strategies and policies for how we manage our fisheries in the future.
I very deliberately do not intend that this discussion paper should provide all of the answers. Rather the paper should act as a catalyst for us to move forward together, to develop ideas and suggestions which can help deliver an inclusive, productive partnership approach.
I want to hear what you think. I want to take on board your concerns and your ideas. I want your buy-in. Only with that can Scotland continue to be the world-leading, diverse and inclusive, proud fishing nation that we want to be. This paper is not a formal consultation but a genuine discussion opportunity to explore change, support status quo and unearth creativity.
I very much look forward to engaging with you all on the widest possible range of issues as we listen and work together before moving to a formal consultation on what I hope will be many joint proposals. Proposals that once implemented will make fishing once more a very attractive career of choice for future generations to come.
Fergus Ewing MSP
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy