Future of fisheries management in Scotland: national discussion paper

Seeks to start an in-depth nationwide discussion with stakeholders to help inform and develop Scotland’s Future Fisheries Management Strategy.

Chapter 2: Governance, engagement and accountability

2.1 Governance and Engagement

Sea fisheries in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This means that Scottish Ministers are responsible and accountable for managing sea fishing activity in the Scottish fishing zone, and Scottish fishing vessels wherever they are active. Ministers are responsible for the overall management decisions which affect the day to day operations of our fishing fleet. This is underpinned by the current legislative framework. As part of our preparations for Brexit, we will ensure that Scottish Ministers have all necessary powers so that devolved competence over Scottish fisheries continues to function fully and effectively in the future, and the needs of our fishing industry continue to be met.

Ministers are supported by officials in Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government Department responsible for the integrated management of Scotland’s seas, within which the Sea Fisheries Division takes the lead policy role on all matters relating to sea fishing. Marine Scotland Science, along with the wider scientific community, provides the scientific evidence base on which most of our policies are based while Marine Scotland Compliance ensures that sea fisheries regulations are enforced, monitored and complied with. The Seafish Industry Authority (Seafish) also supports the development of policy and industry initiatives, enabled through the collection and use of levy from across the United Kingdom. Moving forward Scottish Ministers want the power to raise a Scottish seafood levy and full autonomy for Scotland in deciding on how seafood levies are best utilised here.

Marine Scotland can only successfully manage Scotland’s valuable marine fishery resources with the assistance and engagement of the industries associated stakeholders. We operate an “open door” approach to policy development. Scottish Government officials are continually engaging with representatives of the catching and processing sectors, fisheries community representatives, environmental organisations, other marine users and stakeholders. Consequently, this level of input is used at every stage of policy development, implementation and review which undoubtedly results in Scottish fisheries management becoming greatly improved by this level of stakeholder engagement. A large number of established fora currently exist to assist with this. An overview of these groups is provided at Annex B.

As we move forward we remain committed to continuing with the same high level of engagement. We also want to go further to place co-management of fisheries at the heart of our policy development and decision making. Fisheries co-management should be flexible and cooperative. Both the community and the government are involved during the decision making, implementation and enforcement processes. We will operate through consensus and the use of a veto to stifle progress will not feature. We will, in the first instance, draft a terms of reference to inform a memorandum of understanding between all concerned stakeholders much as we currently have for our Fisheries Management and Conservation Working Group (FMAC).

We wish to see decisions on fisheries management taken at the most appropriate level, devolving local decisions to local stakeholders. This means we need to trust each other and develop a culture of shared responsibility and purpose.

There will undoubtedly be challenges with this but, as part of our Future Fisheries Management Strategy, we wish to explore how we can better engage with stakeholders to more fully involve them in the decision-making process and ensure that we operate in a fair, equitable and transparent way.

There are a wide and diverse range of organisations representing the catching sector. Indeed, skippers and crew can often be represented by a number of groups, potentially with different viewpoints depending on their objectives. This can often lead to an embarrassment of riches, so that any fisher might see organisations representing their interests in dispute over specific issues. Accordingly, this can make it difficult for Ministers and officials to obtain a clear position from the catching sector and others on policy proposals.

A clear objective can often be easier to obtain on reactive or specific issues than on strategic issues which can be particularly challenging against a backdrop of finite Government resources. We want to explore how we can better organise ourselves in the future to provide clarity, maximise the use of public resources and improve on our current structures and engagement.

Good communication and engagement is not only required between Government and external stakeholders. The interactions between different groups within the catching sector, between the catching sector and the onshore sector, and between the fishing industry and others such as environmental groups, are also vital to ensure that the whole system works effectively. It will be important to consider these interactions as we move forward and to identify ways in which they might be strengthened and improved.

Discussion point:

We want to engage with stakeholders on how we can strengthen co-management of our fisheries in the future and would welcome suggestions on this issue.

We want to ensure that we can engage effectively on reactive issues as well as on strategic outcomes. The current industry landscape can often feel too cluttered and we believe that steps to streamline it could result in better management and greater integration of stakeholders into decision-making processes.

We also want to ensure that the public sector bodies operating to support the sector are doing so as effectively as possible, putting Scottish interests at the forefront of their planning and operation.

We want to work with the fishing industry (including Producer Organisations), environmental stakeholders, and others to consider how we can most effectively engage in the future. We believe that fewer representative bodies aligned with strong leadership may help with this.

2.2 Hearing all voices

As with delivery of every complex policy area, we recognise that it can sometimes be difficult for stakeholders to know how and when to interact with us. We also recognise that it can be difficult for stakeholders from smaller, less well represented sectors, to make their voices properly heard. Therefore, it is important that all sectors and stakeholders have sufficient capacity to engage equitably.

While the Scottish Government strives to take into account the views of all stakeholders, inevitably certain stakeholders are more difficult to engage. This is particularly the case for non-sector fishers whose vessels are not members of a Producer Organisation. Such fishers are often based in remote communities, lack formal representation and the full time nature of their work makes it difficult for them to attend meetings or participate in consultation events. Scottish Government officials frequently visit the quaysides to seek to mitigate this barrier. We will continue to seek innovative approaches including the use of technology to improve stakeholder access to Government. We will also explore greater use of local fishery offices to help communicate and engage directly with local fishers on important issues.

We also acknowledge that not everyone wants to engage directly with us. Where this is the case we will always seek to inform in a clear and consistent manner, providing fishers with the choice to engage further with us, or not, as they wish.

We value the diverse nature of our stakeholders and want to ensure that we engage with, and hear from, all sectors across the whole of the supply chain (including offshore, inshore and onshore), community groups, women, young people, environment groups and others.

Discussion point:

We want to hear directly from our stakeholders about how and when we should engage and whether improvements are needed. We believe that we should enhance our current structures and methods of communication in order to deliver a high level of accountability, visibility and transparency in our decisions.

We want to strengthen the engagement that we have with our stakeholders and ensure that communications are regular, meaningful and ongoing. We will seek to provide clarity on how and when stakeholders can best engage with us and ensure that there are opportunities for all voices – big or small – to be heard.

We will seek to provide clarity on which stakeholders should be engaged in relation to each issue. We hope this will result in a de-cluttering of the stakeholder landscape.

2.3 Local management

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting local management of fisheries. Public awareness of the impact of fishing is increasing, with a wider group of stakeholders taking a greater interest in fisheries management. Constructive input from a broad range of stakeholders is beneficial and to be welcomed, although we know that some fishers see this as a threat to their livelihoods and way of life.

Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) have evolved over the last 9 years, with a new structure that was put in place in 2016. The RIFGs network in Scotland consists of the Outer Hebrides RIFG, West Coast RIFG, North and East Coast RIFG, and Orkney Management Group. Inshore fisheries in Shetland are mainly managed through the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) Regulating Order[6].

RIFGs are non-statutory advisory bodies, and are key to the Scottish Government’s vision of local management of our inshore fisheries. They encourage the inshore sector to better engage, develop fisheries management proposals and become the key voice of fishing in Marine Planning Partnerships. It is also important to remember that Fishing Associations and RIFGs perform very different functions; the former is to primarily represent member business interests, and the latter to develop fisheries management plans and improve management in the respective area.

The SSMO, established in 2000, has evolved into what is a highly regarded inshore fisheries management system. Across Scotland the value of local management needs to be considered alongside available resources.

Discussion point:

The Scottish Government believes RIFGs can take a more formal role, be given a statutory basis, and expanded to 12 nautical miles (nm) to help deliver more effective inshore fisheries management. While this expansion would help ensure compatibility with Marine Planning Partnerships, we recognise that future IFG boundary changes may be desirable.

We intend to facilitate an approach to management which empowers local fishing interests and encourages greater stewardship of our marine resources. We do not intend to impose one national model, but rather provide an option for fishers, with support from other local stakeholders to take greater responsibility for managing inshore fishing. This is not management for locals, but local management. Indeed, wider stakeholders such as local authorities may be well placed to become more involved in the management of local fisheries. At the moment the only existing methods are via Several Orders and Regulating Orders which are often inflexible, expensive to operate or inappropriate for the circumstances.

2.4 Delivering confidence and accountability

Delivering confidence in our seafood product is of vital importance to the success of our fishing industry. Scotland’s reputation for delivering high-quality seafood produce in a sustainable and responsible manner helps ensure that our product is in demand throughout the world. It is important that we continue to deliver that confidence in the future and that we are able to demonstrate clearly and transparently the high standards within which the fishing sector is operating.

Key to delivering confidence is ensuring accountability. This runs through the whole supply chain, from the way in which we establish sustainable fishing levels, the methods which fishers deploy to catch fish, the way in which catch is handled, landed, transported and processed, to the final product which is served onto our plates. We are supported in this through many established processes and procedures which are grounded in legislation. We will ensure that these high standards continue to apply after Brexit as the governing European legislation is translated into domestic law.

Sustainable fishing practices are important to retailers and consumers and our role is to clearly demonstrate that the Scottish fishing industry are behaving in a responsible and sustainable way. We partly do this through the annual process of setting quotas at levels which are informed by the best available science. The fishing industry itself also plays a key role in sharing information about their products which help consumers to make informed choices.

As rules and regulations change, the way in which we ensure compliance must also change. We want to work in partnership with stakeholders to consider how we can deliver a high degree of confidence that demonstrates rules and regulations are being complied with. We also want to ensure that we are delivering fully documented fisheries and that we are fully accounting for all the fish which are removed from the sea.

We are currently working to produce an evidenced based proposal that will help shape the future compliance activities of Marine Scotland, detailing the required resources with an action plan for its implementation.

The project will identify and map out both “soft” and “hard” compliance activities pan-Marine Scotland. It will review the costs associated with such compliance activity, with particular attention to the physical and ‘high value’ assets used. The review will consider if the current legislative protections, duties and responsibilities are sufficient for the future but importantly, will also include any non-legislative policy expectations. Changing attitudes and behaviours is key.

We will engage with partners and experts, both domestic and international, to explore and identify new and innovative approaches to compliance (including the use of new technologies), with the view to assimilating these within existing Marine Scotland practices.

To this end we support the proportionate use of Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) as part of an effective control and enforcement system. We will begin with the rollout of REM to our pelagic fleet and will extend to parts of the mobile fleet as appropriate and following a risk based approach. This will include consideration of REM for higher risk vessels operating in sensitive areas. We will also consider the use of reference fleets. We understand that it is important to our fishing industry to have a level playing field and we will ensure this is delivered through legislation, meaning that any vessels entering our waters must also follow, and comply with, these rules.

It will be important to consider all parts of the fleet when agreeing our future approach to delivering confidence and accountability. For the inshore fleet we are already in the process of testing different vessel tracking and monitoring technologies that might be appropriate for inshore vessels. Analysis is currently being undertaken, and will consider implications for fisheries compliance, science, policy delivery and wider marine policy.

Accordingly, this programme of work will not only facilitate better interaction between marine fisheries and other users of inshore waters, but also help tackle issues such as unlicensed fishing activity and gear conflict – both impediments to improving fisheries management.

The benefits of technology such as REM are not only linked to delivering confidence and accountability. There is a significant potential to use REM to improve the way in which our scientific operations work and to deliver enhancements to the data we collect. This should help deliver benefits in relation to stock management, which in turn can help lead to more responsible and sustainable fishing. Scientific involvement in developing and deploying REM technology is therefore of significant importance

Discussion point:

We intend to begin rollout of REM onto our pelagic fleet, with appropriate and proportionate use of REM on other mobile vessels to also be considered. We want to work with stakeholders to develop and deliver this in partnership, to ensure that the framework we put in place is workable and that it delivers a level playing field to all vessels fishing in our waters.

We will also enhance our monitoring and reporting capability for the inshore sector. To achieve this we will introduce:

- appropriate vessel tracking for the under 12 metre fleet, linked initially to access to buffer zones that should be created around all MPAs.

- the potential use of REM for higher risk vessels operating in sensitive areas.

Our commitment to the introduction of vessel tracking systems on vessels 12 metre and less is designed to enhance our base levels of data and information on activity, as well as to allow for a safer and closer alignment of activity around MPAs where only vessels with such equipment will be allowed to operate within MPA buffer zones.

Impacts, both financial and physical, on Compliance and Science resources will need to be considered in delivering confidence and accountability.


Email: ffm@gov.scot

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