Chapter 6 - Sustainable harvesting
59. The WFR report recommended that Ministers should have appropriate powers to regulate the killing of particular species of fish to ensure that harvesting is sustainable.
60. Appropriate mechanisms to ensure that the exploitation of wild fish resources is sustainable should be central to any fishery management system. Sustainable fish populations are the foundation for the operation of any fishery in order to derive benefit from the resource. Some species of wild fish have protection in international and EU law and Scottish Ministers have legal obligations to protect these species and their habitats. It is therefore important that the management system is compatible with these obligations and the precautionary principle is embedded within it. These regulatory requirements exist regardless of the status of the stock in any given year or in any particular river: there must be a lever to control exploitation when stock status gives cause for concern; even when there appears to be no cause for concern there are legal requirements for some species to demonstrate that exploitation is sustainable; it is not sufficient to rely on the absence of evidence that it is not.
61. The fundamental principles of management set out in chapter 2 confirm that Scotland's new fishery management system will take an all-species approach. A number of fish species have protected status and the system must have the flexibility to cope with any future changes to protected status. Some species are of particular importance in some parts of the country, and it is not possible to predict the future health of stocks given the many and varied factors which can place populations under pressure. Given this landscape, we consider that it is appropriate for powers to be available to Scottish Ministers to control exploitation of any of Scotland's wild fish species. While these powers should be flexible in order to respond to particular circumstances, we believe that their purpose should be restricted to the conservation and protection of fish stocks. The current legislative framework provides some powers to Ministers to act in certain circumstances, but requires modernisation to aid the delivery of national measures and is not fully aligned with application of the precautionary principle.
Q21. Do you agree that Ministers should have powers to control killing of all fish species on the grounds of conservation and be able to do so in line with the precautionary principle?
Q22. If not, what other mechanisms should exist in order to ensure a flexible regulatory system which can ensure delivery of legal obligations and policy priorities for management of species and is capable of responding to future changes?
62. The report also included a recommendation to address instances of reckless or irresponsible exercise of fishing rights. This recommendation has attracted comment since publication, mainly in terms of the ability to identify clearly the types of behaviour that might be regarded as reckless or irresponsible and the burden attached to producing sufficient evidence to support a prosecution. We do not intend to progress this recommendation: we think that the structure of a new fisheries management system set out above, combined with powers to regulate the killing of all species of fish, are sufficient in themselves to address the issues behind this recommendation.
Q23. Do you agree that, in the context of the wider proposals in this paper, the creation of an offence of reckless or irresponsible exercise of fishing rights should not be pursued?