Future fisheries: management strategy - 2020 to 2030

Through the delivery of our Future Fisheries Management Strategy we set our vision for Scotland to be a world class fishing nation, delivering responsible and sustainable fisheries management.

Strategic Context and Outcomes

Our marine environment is a national asset and our role as fisheries managers is to manage and preserve that asset for the benefit of Scotland and future generations to come. It is also a shared natural resource not only in a domestic context but spanning oceans and transcending international boundaries. This means shared responsibilities across the international arena, and the need for cooperation and collaboration. Our approach to fisheries management operates within this context, and we will use every opportunity for Scotland to play an active role internationally, not only because it is important for Scotland's voice to be heard, but because we share the fundamental objectives and principles of our international partners.

Our overall approach to fisheries management in Scotland is framed within the delivery of the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework,[2] and helps support a range of national outcomes including those related to supporting a sustainable economy, delivering fair work and thriving businesses, supporting a strong international presence for Scotland and empowering communities and strengthening their resilience. Fishing also makes a full and vital contribution to the national outcome 'we value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment'. Success is measured through the delivery of national indicators, including 'to improve the state of Scotland's Marine Environment' and this drives many of the decisions we take at a strategic and practical level in order to ensure that the overarching aims and objectives of the Scottish Government are delivered.

Scotland's Environment Strategy creates an overarching framework for our strategies and plans on the environment and climate change. Sustainable fisheries management will contribute to achieving the outcomes of the Environment Strategy, including 'Scotland's nature is protected and restored, with flourishing biodiversity and clean and healthy air, water, seas and soils', 'our thriving, sustainable economy conserves and grows our natural assets' and 'we play our full role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperate rise to 1.5°C'.

Our fisheries management also sits within the broad framework of Scotland's National Marine Plan which sets out the Scottish Government's approach to managing Scotland's seas, including the interactions between different sectors, their combined impact on the marine environment and the factors which influence our decision making. The overarching vision contained within the National Marine Plan sets the scene for our overall approach and the policies which we deliver. That vision is for 'clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas, managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people'. Scotland's Marine Assessment 2020 (SMA2020) assesses the condition of the Scottish marine area and will inform the review and any future update of Scotland's National Marine Plan.

Within this context, through this strategy and as set out below, we will deliver a range of outcomes which directly support the National Marine Plan and the Scottish Government's national outcomes and which respond to the challenges identified as part of the SMA2020. Many of these challenges are shared, and therefore the management framework provided by the UK Marine Strategy will also be relevant to ensuring that Scotland's seas progress towards Good Environmental Status, as will the holistic thinking generated by a Blue Economy approach. These outcomes are set out below and will shape the policies which we will deliver and the decisions we take.

We see fisheries as a vital part of Scotland's 'Blue Economy', defined as 'the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health'.[3] We have committed to developing a Blue Economy Action Plan which will take a joined-up strategic approach across the diverse range of Scotland's established and emerging marine sectors to maximise the opportunities offered by our abundantly rich marine zone.

The Blue Economy Action Plan will encourage collaboration across the public sector, marine industries and marine environmental interests to unlock cross-sectoral synergies that can support growth and jobs, benefit coastal communities and help deliver a just transition to net zero. A truly holistic Blue Economy approach also recognises that our many marine industries share the same common space and benefit from the joint stewardship of its amazing natural abundance. Our Blue Economy action plan will therefore reflect the vital importance to our marine economy of the rich natural capital in Scotland's seas and rivers.

"This fisheries management strategy will form one of the cornerstones of the Blue Economy Action Plan. It will seek to deliver the benefits of a Blue Economy approach to the fishing industry by encouraging learning and collaboration with other marine sectors in areas of shared interest, such as skills, science, innovation, infrastructure, regulation and the climate emergency."

Crucially, a Blue Economy approach also provides the framework for managing the co-existence of different marine interests in the same shared space, enabling a transition from a mind-set of 'environment vs economic growth' to a mind-set of 'shared stewardship of natural capital facing common challenges.' We do not manage our fisheries in isolation and joining up our approach across the marine environment, for example by considering competing marine sectors and priorities in our decision making, and also onshore interests, is vital to success. Through delivery of this strategy, and in the wider Blue Economy Action Plan, we will have a renewed focus on integrating fisheries interests into the wider marine planning process and, linked to this, ensuring that fishing impacts are considered as part of our wider ecosystem-based approach.

Our overarching aim is to focus on collaboration and cooperation, not conflict and controversy. We have not always achieved this in the past, but if we recognise that conflict exists, then through partnership working it should be possible to resolve that conflict for the greater good. One of the ways we can do this is by increasing our openness and transparency around data, improving our evidence base and taking account of the range of knowledge that exists, in particular valuing the knowledge of fishers and others who work at sea, and using this to help boost our understanding of the marine environment.

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted our fishing industry and our coastal communities in an unprecedented way. Whilst we have been able to provide significant and targeted financial support to key parts of the fishing and seafood sector to support them through the pandemic, COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus issues around resilience within key parts of the fishing fleet and the wider seafood industry. Many of the actions contained within this strategy are intended to help boost resilience in the sector, for example around diversification of fishing opportunities, attracting new entrants, and strengthening links between the catching sector and onshore industries. In this way and as part of our Blue Economy Action Plan we will seek to help marine sectors and coastal communities to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and grow sustainably whilst also supporting a transition through EU Exit. The actions within this strategy will also support our national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs.

We will also seek to strengthen links between the offshore fishing industry and onshore interests, recognising the benefits that fishing as a national asset must have for our communities, onshore processing, local markets, healthy eating and sustainable food supplies, and opportunities for training and employment. The policies which we take forward under this strategy, for example allocation of additional quota opportunities, the introduction of the economic link licence condition from 2022 and our drive to ensure that quota remains in the control of the active fishing industry, will directly support these considerations.

"The Scottish Nephrops Working Group is being supported by a £1 million investment to investigate the scale of the current challenges facing the Nephrops sector and to develop a long term strategic vision for cementing Scotland's position as the global leader of high quality langoustine."

Our Principles and Outcomes

The Scottish Government is committed to moving to a net zero emissions economy in a way that is fair for all. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how abrupt and unplanned shifts can exacerbate inequalities. Now, more than ever, we need a just transition that supports sustainable economic growth and jobs, whilst ensuring no one is left behind. The future fisheries strategy supports this, combining our social, economic and environmental goals as set out here.

In delivering our overarching outcomes we recognise that conflict can exist and that delivery of one set of outcomes, for example on the environment, can sometimes negatively impact another set of outcomes, for example in relation to short-term economic interests. Recognising these conflicts is important and having a robust decision making process in place will enable us to achieve an appropriate balance. Paramount to our approach is the principle of sustainability, in particular the long term sustainability of both our environment and our economy.

Outcomes which conflict with fisheries interests can develop from decisions made on other parts of the marine economy. Our Blue Economy approach seeks to provide the strategic framework within which such conflicts can be coherently and sensibly managed, informed by the principles for fisheries management outlined below.

We will separately publish a monitoring and evaluation framework which 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 this strategy. We will report on progress in a regular, open and transparent way.

Overarching Principle of Sustainability

  • Protect our natural marine environment, based on an ecosystem approach
  • Maximise opportunity and long term sustainable economic growth for the rural economy
  • Secure the future of our fishing industry for future generations

Environmental Outcomes

  • Our fisheries are managed in a way that protects biological diversity and which ensures that marine ecosystems continue to provide economic, environmental, social and wider benefits based on best available scientific advice.
  • We fish within limits based on the best available scientific advice, using the precautionary principle, and aligned with the delivery of fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

Economic Outcomes

  • We have productive and resilient fisheries and we seek to optimise inclusive economic growth.
  • We provide equality of opportunity for fishing opportunities, with support for local jobs, new entrants and small family owned businesses to grow and contribute to the long term economic growth of the Scottish fishing industry.
  • We support fishing and onshore industries to grow sustainably, and be internationally competitive, through building and maintaining access to markets.
  • We maximise the benefit of fishing to the local and national economy, with strong links between the marine and onshore sectors.
  • We have quality jobs which are underpinned by our Fair Work principles.

Social Outcomes

  • We recognise the value of fishing for our rural coastal communities in supporting local jobs and ways of life, also respecting diversity and equality.
  • We recognise and value the contribution made by migrants.
  • We protect and encourage the fishing industry to grow in a sustainable manner, and for the wider benefits that flow from fishing to be realised in these communities wherever possible.
  • We recognise and promote the heritage and culture of our fishing communities.

Our ecosystem-based approach

Protecting our marine environment and securing our natural assets for future generations is central to our fisheries management approach. We already have a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in place, which will be supported by continuing to develop our approach to the safeguarding of Priority Marine Features (PMFs), providing vital protection to vulnerable habitats and species.

We understand the impact that environmental restrictions can have on fishing activity and we want to strengthen the engagement we have with those affected in order to mitigate unnecessary negative socio-economic effects. We want to listen to our fishers and the experience and knowledge they have about the marine environment, using this knowledge to add to the richness of our overall understanding. We want to ensure that the right protections are in place for our marine environment, underpinned by a robust scientific evidence base and enforcement regime. We recognise that there has been distrust in the past around some of the decisions we have taken, and we will take steps to address this by improving the transparency and awareness around our modelling processes, and supplementing our understanding with local fishing knowledge where appropriate.

Where necessary and appropriate we will introduce additional measures, for example to protect vulnerable spawning and juvenile fishing grounds, and through the introduction of additional enforcement measures such as Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM)[4] for the pelagic and scallop fleets, and as required for other sectors of the fleet. REM should be seen as a positive tool, to provide a way for us to demonstrate that our fishers are acting sustainably and responsibly. The introduction of additional monitoring either through REM or through our inshore modernisation programme, is an important component of continuing to enhance our national and international scientific evidence base to help us make the right decisions to support effective management. Scotland makes an essential contribution to UK and international fisheries science and this expertise and analysis remains a vital component of our sustainable fisheries management approach.

We believe that supporting biodiversity in our seas is vitally important, alongside taking account of the wider ecosystem when developing and delivering policies and in our decision making processes. This also reflects the value we place in the sea's natural capital, which forms a vital building block underpinning the wellbeing and sustainability of Scotland's fisheries and the other marine industries that share and depend on the health of the marine environment in which they operate. This holistic approach, which sees our marine natural capital delivering multiple benefits in terms of natural biodiversity and economic productivity, lies at the heart of our Blue Economy thinking.

Rather than a system of marine management focussed on individual features, this strategy will adopt the principles of ecosystem-based management. ICES uses several key phrases to define what an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management looks like, these are: "management of human activities, consideration of collective pressures, achievement of good environmental status, sustainable use, optimization of benefits among diverse societal goals, regionalization, trade-offs, and stewardship for future generations".[5] We recognise these descriptors and will use them to shape our own ecosystem based approach under this strategy, taking a holistic and inclusive approach, having environmental sustainability as a key tenet and achieving this through inclusive engagement and not taking decisions in isolation.

As part of our ecosystem-based approach we will work in close collaboration with our stakeholders to focus on:

  • Using spatial management measures such as area restrictions to protect spawning grounds and juvenile fish in order to help maintain healthy populations, drawing on fishers' knowledge and scientific evidence in order to develop sensible and proportionate measures
  • Fishing at sustainable levels and making use of appropriate technology to properly account for activity and build our shared and accessible scientific evidence base
  • Taking fisheries management decisions which make the most of fishers' knowledge, which account for impacts on the wider environment, and which acknowledge and mitigate against negative outcomes both for the environment and the fishing sector
  • Supporting fishers to demonstrate their compliance with rules and regulations, e.g. through the use of technology such as vessel tracking to monitor compliance with area closures
  • Conservation of vulnerable and protected species, for example, by limiting unwanted bycatch and encouraging proper handling practices when returning protected species to the sea
  • Where appropriate, restricting fishing activity and prohibiting fishing for species which are integral components of the marine food web, such as sandeels.

MPAs are not routinely a fisheries management tool, however many of these sites require management measures that may restrict activity including fishing to achieve their conservation objective. But they are a tool which can help protect valuable ecosystems and support fish stocks to recover and grow. They can also provide natural habitats to protect sources of food and nutrients, and make a positive contribution to carbon sequestration. By protecting these areas there can also be additional benefits such as helping to protect fish stocks, and creating a healthy stock for exploitation. As a general rule we should consider the impact of our management decisions on the wider ecosystem, and where there are known problems, for example with a particular stock, then we will look at options to protect habitats (including spawning grounds) in addition to fisheries management measures such as those taken forward as part of our Future Catching Policy.

Tackling the climate emergency

In 2019 Scotland declared a Global Climate Emergency and passed legislation to end Scotland's contribution to global emissions by 2045 as well as enshrining in law Scotland's commitment to a just transition. This will require a transformation across all sectors of our economy and society. Fisheries must play its part to reduce emissions and help to create a low carbon economy with clean, green jobs. This transition is a huge opportunity to grow Scottish businesses, supply chains and good, sustainable jobs. Planning will be crucial to ensure that opportunities are not missed (and that risks associated with rapid structural change are mitigated). We want to work in partnership with businesses to develop effective net zero transition plans and showcase good examples and investment opportunities.

Climate change is already having impacts on fish stocks and fishing activities. The SMA2020 acknowledges that observed changes to fish stocks are difficult to attribute directly to human-induced climate change as other factors are known to influence fish. However, climate change already has an impact on fish ecology and the distribution of commercially important species, and with a warming climate, will increasingly do so.

In a fisheries context, it is important for us to recognise and understand these potential changes and the impacts of our activities, and also to consider the contribution that the fishing sector itself makes to climate change and how we can reduce its impact. We also need to consider the positive role that retailers and consumers can play.

Action on climate change is not something which can be done in isolation, rather it requires a response from across the stakeholder landscape, and we need to take account of research and development to properly understand the options and the difference that actions can make. We need to make the most of the experience of the fishing industry and use their innovation and expertise to explore challenges and develop solutions in collaboration.

With that in mind, we will urgently work with our partners and our scientists to secure a robust evidence base and develop a firm plan to set out direct actions, including:

  • seeking a baseline per fleet segment upon which to measure against and to assist with planning and prioritising action.
  • working in partnership with our co-management groups and our RIFGs to collaborate on local projects and get buy in from the fishing industry to a Team Scotland approach.
  • understanding options to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, e.g. exploring the use of alternative fuels.
  • actions to reduce energy use during fishing operations, including inefficient refrigeration equipment.
  • using the outputs from Fisheries Innovation Scotland climate change projects, alongside other scientific research, to influence and shape policy decisions.
  • encouraging and supporting changes to sustainable and innovative fishing techniques.
  • making better use of local markets and shorter supply chains.
  • continuing to ensure that we fish at sustainable levels with appropriate monitoring and control measures in place.
  • considering where and how we need to adapt our approaches to take account of the impacts of climate change.
  • taking forward partnership working through the Energy Transition Zone, Global Underwater Hub and Oil and Gas Technology Centre to incorporate fisheries and fisheries advice into low carbon transition proposals.

Marine Litter

As part of our National Discussion Paper on Future Fisheries Management we indicated we would explore options to make marine littering a specific offence. We are pleased that our recommendations in this area have influenced the introduction of UK Government legislation and The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships) Regulations 2020, subject to certain exceptions, make it an offence for UK vessels and other vessels within UK waters or UK controlled waters (other than vessels engaged on certain military matters or vessels owned or operated by a State and used on government non-commercial service), regardless of their size, to litter.

As part of our wider ecosystem approach and our actions to tackle climate change, we will take further positive action to reduce levels of marine litter and tackle single-use plastics. As part of this initiative, we will work with the fishing industry to consider ways to recycle and reuse fishing gear to encourage the landing of end of life gear ashore.


Email: ffm@gov.scot

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