Chapter 1: Achieving Our Vision For Environmentally Conscious and Sustainable Fishing
Scotland’s National Marine Plan recognises that existing fishing opportunities and activities are safeguarded wherever possible, and that the general planning principle ensures a presumption in favour of sustainable use and development, which includes existing fishing activity. The fishing industry operates alongside many other marine users, in waters that are increasingly competitive, with space at a premium in some areas. In recognising the rights of all users, it is important we ensure proper processes are in place to both reduce the likelihood of accidental interaction/conflict and deal efficiently, as well as fairly, with any incidents. One of the major marketing attractions for Scotland is the excellence of our marine environment and quality of our food and drink. As such, marine and coastal tourism plays an important role in Scotland’s rural economy. The NMP already seeks to: “Position Scotland as a world class sustainable coastal and marine tourism and recreation destination throughout the sustainable development of coastal and marine recreation activities and industries in Scotland”.
Our overarching vision for the marine environment is for ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people.’
This vision is also reflected in the UK Marine Strategy which seeks to achieve and maintain good environmental status in UK waters. An assessment of progress towards good environmental status will be published for public consultation later this year along with new environmental targets. Where relevant, our Future Fisheries Management Strategy will reflect the need to continue improving our marine environmental status.
The NMP is also key to achieving our vision for the marine environment. It sets economic, social, marine ecosystem, climate change mitigation and adaptation objectives. Additionally, the NMP also covers the management of Scottish waters and applies to the exercise of both reserved and devolved functions. It sets out policies to meet the high level marine objectives described in the UK Marine Policy Statement, but it does not replace or remove existing regulatory regimes or legislative requirements. Rather it provides a consistent framework for their continued operation.
The Plan promotes an ecosystem based approach, putting the marine environment at the heart of the planning process to promote ecosystem health, resilience to human induced change and the ability to support sustainable development and use. It also ensures that any individual policy, plan or activity is carried out within environmental limits. It sets sector specific objectives which mainly focus on the promotion of sustainable economic growth of the relevant sector and are an important context for planning and decision making.
The policies in the NMP that explicitly protect fisheries in the marine planning and licensing process are outlined in Annex A. These policies extend to include social and economic impacts on fisheries, as well as accounting for the potentially detrimental effect on fish populations by other marine activities
Our vision for the marine environment enshrines our commitment to marine biodiversity. In order to secure the long term future of our world class fisheries sector, marine biodiversity needs to be considered in multiple ways. We need to ensure that:
- Commercially important fish and shellfish stocks are exploited within sustainable limits;
- Non-target species are not impacted in a way that adversely affects their populations, or adversely affects the marine food web;
- Habitats are able to support the lifecycle of all species and help maintain healthy populations.
Over the last decade considerable action has been taken to progress towards achieving our vision for the marine environment including direct action such as work to create a well-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network. Completing this work is a key foundation of improving environmental status to the benefit of fishers and wider society, but there is also a need to ensure a strong foundation of fisheries management in our future strategy.
Marine litter has become one of the main environmental issues of our time. It is widely accepted that the majority of the litter which ends up in the marine environment originates on land. However, a significant level of litter is also entering the marine environment through the activities and operations taking place in our seas.
A great deal of work is currently being done to address this issue. A “Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland, (2014)”, sets out the Scottish Government’s approach to ensure the amount of litter entering the marine environment is minimised to bring associated ecological, economic and social benefits.
The fishing industry also have a valuable role to play in removing litter from the marine environment. The KIMO’s Fishing for Litter scheme has involved over 300 vessels and landed in excess of 1000 tonnes of litter, most of which was plastics. However, more can be done to address this issue.
One of the major marketing attractions for Scotland is the excellence of our marine environment, and the quality of our food and drink. As such, marine and coastal tourism plays an important role in Scotland’s rural economy. The NMP already seeks to: “Position Scotland as a world class sustainable coastal and marine tourism and recreation destination through the sustainable development of coastal and marine recreation activities and industries in Scotland.”
Scotland’s fisheries already operate within a strategic international and domestic framework. It is important that we take account of existing commitments and conventions when establishing our management plans for the future.
There can often be challenges in translating high level principles into practice and ensuring that strategic goals are reflected at an operational level. This will require a flexible approach that enables an adaptive and responsive approach to management.
As we move forward with developing our future strategy, we need to consider how best to turn our overarching aims under the National Marine Plan and other strategic international commitments into operational detail. For example, this could involve working with Marine Planning Partnerships as they develop Regional Marine Plans.
We will seek to work with partners to make strategic outcomes accessible and easily understood. Additionally, we will take account of relevant issues identified in the National Marine Plan Review and seek to align these with future iterations of the Plan.
Specifically on marine litter, the Scottish Government will explore the mechanisms under which we will establish it as an offence to throw overboard any type of litter whilst at sea.