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 3: International

3.1 International Negotiations

Scotland is a major fishing nation in the north-east Atlantic and many of our key commercial stocks are shared with our international neighbours. It is clear that in the future we will not be managing our fisheries in isolation. We have many close partners across Europe and, as a responsible maritime nation committed to meeting our international obligations, we can only see mutual benefit in maintaining and building upon long established relationships with neighbouring fishing nations particularly as we seek to sensibly and sustainably co-manage multiple shared fish stocks.

The management of fisheries in Scottish waters out to 200 nautical miles is devolved. We are clear that access to these waters and fishing opportunities in those waters must not be traded away by the UK Government in any permanent form.

We envisage access to our waters continuing, negotiated annually through the Coastal States fora. We would not seek a scenario where we would close off our waters to our neighbours and partners. At the same time we are clear that foreign vessels in our waters should meet the same high standards that will apply to our own vessels in Scottish waters. We will also expect the highest standards from Scottish vessels fishing elsewhere. We must also have a full understanding of what the Compliance requirements may be in monitoring such activity.

Most of the commercial fish stocks caught by the Scottish fleet are managed by the use of Total Allowable Catches (TACs). Most stocks are distributed across one or more international boundaries, so their TACs are agreed at a series of international negotiations[7].

In addition to agreeing TACs for any jointly managed stocks, Coastal State negotiations also deal with the following related management and fishing issues:

  • Access - under international law a Coastal State controls fishing in its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) out to 200 nautical miles. It may choose to grant access for another country to catch a specific amount of its own quota in its EEZ. Such agreements are usually made annually, on a bilateral basis, and are usually reciprocal but may additionally or alternatively be in return for quota. Access arrangements are particularly useful where a stock is seasonal or migratory in nature.
  • Inward and outward exchanges of quota – one-off trades that can vary from year to year.
  • Development of stock-specific Long Term Management Strategies (LTMS).
  • Establishment of TAC sharing arrangements.

In addition to the potential described above for links between access and quota, similar links are often made during negotiations between access and TAC shares where countries may be willing to accept a lower share of a stock’s TAC (usually on an annual basis) in return for significant access opportunities.

3.2 Future Coastal State Negotiations

After leaving the EU, one operating model under consideration is that the UK will become an independent Coastal State with the right to control and manage fishing in its Exclusive Economic Zone. As such, the current configuration of international negotiations will evolve, and the UK will take a seat at the negotiating top table alongside other Coastal States and fishing parties. Scotland’s role for leading negotiations in its own right needs further consideration.

In the scenario of a UK Coastal State, we will make the case for Scotland to lead on behalf of all the nations in the UK where we have the critical voice in relation to stocks that are predominantly present in Scottish waters and in relation to access to Scottish waters by foreign vessels. For example, NEA Mackerel, NS Cod, Northern Shelf Haddock, NS Nephrops, WS Herring.WS Nephrops, and Northern shelf monkfish, to name but a few, spend the majority of their life cycle in Scottish waters.

This clearly demonstrates that Scotland has a key role to play in the future management of these valuable resources present in Scottish waters. There could be a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Scottish Government to underpin this. General themes and expectations are that the Scottish Government would:

  • continue to engage closely with the UK Government, offering both support and challenge, as we prepare for life as an independent Coastal State;
  • be an active and critical part of the UK delegation at international negotiations where we have, or may wish to develop, fishing interests;
  • seek the establishment of an inclusive and transparent mechanism for future negotiations that engages stakeholders in collective decision-making; this would include an enhanced role for Scottish stakeholders within the UK delegation;
  • conduct negotiations on a principled rather than positional basis;
  • remain alert to any moves in negotiations that would seek to trade away Scottish interests in return for opportunities that do not benefit Scotland either directly or indirectly;
  • continue to play an increased, active, visible and credible role on the international stage, guided by the principles of fairness, legitimacy and mutual benefit;
  • demonstrate to other fishing nations with whom we have long-standing relationships that we will remain a responsible, fair and open negotiating partner;
  • provide reassurance that we see bilateral access continuing post-Brexit but that it will be negotiated on an annual basis and be sensitive to the priorities of both parties;
  • recognise the need to provide stability to all businesses and avoid a cliff-edge approach where change is managed over time.

3.3 Future relationship with the EU and other countries

Scotland has many close partners both within the EU and with other fishing nations such as Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Ensuring that we maintain these close and active links is vital as we move forward. This goes beyond the role of international negotiations and covers both the formal and informal networks which are vital to conducting on-going successful business. These networks will be important in managing shared stocks and in exploring and resolving common issues.

Scotland is already well regarded by other nations and our opinions, knowledge and expertise will continue to be important in the future. We want to explore the form that our future relationships might take to ensure that we can continue to influence and have our voice heard on the international stage.

Discussion point:

The Scottish fishing zone is the fourth largest of core European waters and makes up over 60% of the UK’s total European waters. There is a significant abundance of fish in Scottish waters and numerous EU and third countries have a significant dependence on their ability to access fish quota allocations in our waters. These factors put us in a strong position in relation to negotiations with the EU. As such, the Scottish Government must play a lead role within any UK delegation.

Whilst international relations are reserved, the Scottish Government has an interest in such relations because they are in many cases focussed on access arrangements. This reinforces the need for the UK Government to operate in partnership and not as sole arbiter as is currently the case.

In any scenario of a UK Coastal State, Scotland’s role should be the leading one where we have the critical voice in relation to stocks that are dominant in Scottish waters and in relation to access to Scottish waters by foreign vessels, our agreement must be sought.

We want to work with stakeholders to consider what role they should play within Scottish and/or UK delegations at future negotiations.

Closer involvement by stakeholders within the negotiating delegation brings advantages but also many challenges, not least the requirement for collective support required around any final decisions taken. Stakeholder representatives will want to consider how this situation can best be managed.


Email: ffm@gov.scot

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