As fisheries managers we take decisions on a wide range of issues and policies on a day-to-day basis. We want to ensure that we are taking decisions at the most appropriate levels and that we are flexible and responsive around joining up decision making. The co-management structures we have in place help us to take these decisions in a sensible and responsible way. Sharing the decision making framework which we use, helping people to understand how decisions are made, and ensuring that decisions are communicated openly and transparently, is one of our key strategic goals.
There are three main types of decisions which we take:
- in an international context, decisions around fish stocks and sustainable levels of fishing.
- in a domestic context, technical, spatial and operational decisions related to how and where people can fish.
- strategic policy decisions, related to existing policies and new policies, and overall management of the fisheries sector. These decisions are also influenced by other marine considerations, including the renewables sector, Marine Protected Areas, and aquaculture. Taking a wider view across the shared space is an important part of the strategic decision making process.
"Under this strategy, our decisions will be taken in the context of the outcomes we seek to achieve, and balancing the principles of sustainability, environmental, economic and social benefit."
To support our decision making, we will always take an evidence-based approach and make full use of the best available scientific advice, enabled by a fit for purpose monitoring programme and collection of data. This will not only guide our approach to agreeing sustainable fishing levels, but will also provide a fundamental building block for our Future Catching Policy, influencing and guiding our approach to technical and spatial management measures, and informing our approach to protecting vulnerable spawning and juvenile areas. We will seek to build on our evidence base, particularly where there are gaps in our current knowledge. Key projects such as the introduction of REM, our Inshore Modernisation Programme, and taking forward learning from the Inshore Pilots, will help us do this.
Wherever possible we will work in partnership with our stakeholders, utilising our established co-management groups FMAC, IFMAC and our Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) and through formal and informal consultation particularly around technical issues as required. Ensuring we have the best possible understanding of impact in the real practical sense before final decisions are taken. We will be transparent about communicating our decisions, so that stakeholders understand the outcomes of our decision making processes and the rationale behind them. And we will also expect a similar approach from our stakeholders, in how they engage and in the behaviours they adopt and act with regards to transparency.
Of course decisions about management are not just taken with our domestic stakeholders. As part of the broader UK coastal state we work closely with the other UK Fisheries Administrations and alongside other coastal state partners on a broad range of fisheries management issues. We will continue to be a constructive and helpful partner in this context, ensuring that Scottish interests are fully reflected, promoted and protected.
Many of our goals and the outcomes we seek to achieve link strongly to those underpinning the approach in the EU and we intend to keep pace with EU standards and rules as far as possible. In a fisheries context this means we will continue to align to the overarching outcomes and principles which underpin the EU's approach to fisheries - including those of the Common Fisheries Policy - although it will not prevent us from using alternative technical and operational processes to achieve the same or better outcomes; or to raise standards and deliver improved outcomes, if that would better support our aim to be a world-leading fishing nation and our desire to innovate and encourage others to follow. Our management decisions will be influenced by our aspirations for Scotland to gain independence.
We share the EU's goal of ensuring the long term conservation and sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources and to deliver that we will continue to champion science-based approaches that are tailored to the needs of specific regions and ecosystems, are supported by robust yet proportionate management measures, and which take account of the shared challenges we face, such as climate change. And we will also continue to meet - and where possible, exceed - our international obligations relating to fisheries and the marine environment, a great many of which are shared with the EU.
The need for proportionate and appropriate legislation will also influence the decisions we take. Fisheries is by its nature a heavily regulated and complex legislative area. Where we can simplify measures and cut through unnecessary bureaucracy without impacting on outcomes, we will take action.