We began our journey to develop Scotland’s Fisheries Management Strategy (FFM Strategy) in March 2019 with a national discussion seeking stakeholder views on how we should manage our sea fisheries in the future. The responses received, along with feedback from a number of productive stakeholder events, all played a crucial role in shaping the messages and actions contained within the Strategy which was published in December 2020.
This delivery plan supports the FFM Strategy and is intended to help stakeholders understand the progress that has been made in delivering key aspects of the Strategy so far. It should also help stakeholders to forward plan by indicating when work to deliver the various actions within the Strategy is intended to be carried out.
Since the Strategy was published a number of events have taken place which already have and will continue to impact on the fishing industry. This includes the UK’s exit from European Union (EU), and the devastating impacts of COVID-19 whose effects continue to be felt by businesses and in communities.
The strategic and policy context in which we operate has also changed, most notably with the signing of the Bute House Agreement and subsequent 2021/22 Programme for Government, which includes a number of notable commitments including the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in Scottish waters and a commitment to develop a Blue Economy Vision. Now more than ever the spotlight is on the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, which require urgent action in order to deliver change on a significant and long-lasting scale. The Bute House Agreement aims to achieve a step change in marine protection and deliver on our shared commitment to achieve and maintain good environmental status for all of Scotland’s seas. The actions contained within this delivery plan therefore not only reflect the commitments made within the FFM Strategy itself, but also the additional actions contained within the Bute House Agreement specifically relating to fishing.
We are also operating within a changed domestic and international context. The UK’s exit from the EU means that we are still building up new ways of working and establishing a new dynamic with our EU and other Coastal State partners. We have made it clear that we want Scotland to lead the way in many aspects of fisheries management, but we want to do this in an inclusive and open way, so that we build on our strong international foundations to manage our shared seas and fish stocks in partnership. This is reflected in the actions we seek to take forward within this delivery plan, and in our everyday discussions and negotiations with our international partners.
The FFM Strategy is a ten year strategic document. Many of the actions we seek to deliver cannot and will not happen overnight. While all of the actions contained within the FFM Strategy are important building blocks to support sustainable and responsible fisheries management, prioritisation is needed. This is reflected in the front-loading of actions which will have significant benefit to the marine environment and which will deliver substantial improvements in the way in which we tackle some of our most difficult fisheries management challenges and which fit within the context of the Blue Economy Vision . A number of actions from the FFM Strategy which are specifically aimed at developing the fishing sector, such as exploring distant water opportunities, considering additional capacity in pelagic licences, and consideration of TACs for non-TAC species, will be longer term commitments although they will still be delivered within the Strategy’s ten-year timeframe.
Decision-making and co-management
As the Strategy outlines, fisheries management can be complex and decision-making will always need to take account of a variety of factors. We often use stakeholders to help inform our decision making, for example through formal consultations or using specific stakeholder groups to help flesh out ideas and solutions. As we take forward the individual policies and actions within the FFM Strategy, we will seek to use co-management to inform our development, and as part of our decision making will take account of a variety of environmental and socio-economic factors – there is no one-size-fits-all approach, as the factors depend on what we’re trying to achieve and the specific policy we’re looking to deliver.
Using a co-management approach undoubtedly leads to better decision-making, but it can also mean delivery can take longer than might otherwise be the case. We know that some of our co-management structures aren’t yet quite right, and that we need to improve the transparency of our decision-making and communications, particularly around how we achieve the complicated balance between socio-economic and environmental outcomes, and also in the context of meeting Net Zero and biodiversity commitments. With that in mind, one of the priority areas we will work on during 2022 is improving these fundamental aspects of our co-management approach. As part of this, we are working with stakeholders to consider how to develop our Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC), and progressing with plans for it to act in a strategic space in support of developing fisheries management actions.
Ongoing delivery of statutory and operational functions
In addition to the new policies and actions we have identified within the FFM Strategy and as part of the Bute House Agreement, we continue to deliver our statutory and core functions and also to deliver on our domestic and international responsibilities. These include the setting of fishing opportunities and quota management, licensing of fishing vessels, international negotiations, as well as delivering our science and compliance functions.
We also continue to play an active role in providing support to our Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) which give fishers a voice in inshore fisheries management and wider marine matters and we are working closely with these groups to take forward the learning from the two Inshore Pilots: the Mull Crab Box (trialling spatial and temporal separation of mobile and static gear) and the Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries pilot (trialling a holistic approach to reducing fishing gear use).
Monitoring and evaluation
We will separately publish a monitoring and evaluation framework, making the links with our Blue Economy Vision. This will contain further detail about how we will measure and monitor progress against our outcomes and the policies and actions which we deliver as part of the FFM Strategy. We will report on progress in a regular, open and transparent way.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback