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The Scottish Government's Response to the European Commission's Green Paper on Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy



1.1 Scotland occupies a fortunate geographical position surrounded by productive seas and a high quality, diverse marine environment. Scotland is the major fishing nation within the UK and one of the most significant fishing nations within the EU.

  • Scotland's fisheries zone comprises 60.1% (470,063 km 2) of the UK total area and represents the biggest share of EU waters (excluding overseas territories). These waters are some of the most productive fishing grounds in the world.
  • 69% of key UK quotas are held by Scottish Producer Organisations.
  • Scotland lands around 66% of the UK quota stocks by value (England and Wales 28%, and Northern Ireland 6%)
  • Shellfish landings, particularly Nephrops (Scottish langoustine), provide the most significant contribution to the Scottish economy (£155m in 2008), followed by the mixed demersal fisheries (£139m) and pelagic (mackerel, herring) fisheries (£101m).
  • The Scottish Fishing industry (sea fishing and processing sector) is the lifeblood of a large number of coastal communities, with many vessels being family owned.
  • Fishing in Scotland supports over 5,000 coastal jobs with fish processing enterprises providing employment for a further 5,250.

Fig 1. The Scottish Fisheries zone

Fig 1. The Scottish Fisheries zone

Modern and innovative fisheries management in Scotland

1.2 The Scottish industry has been at the forefront of fisheries management modernisation and innovation aimed at ensuring sustainable fisheries. Fishermen in Scotland use larger mesh sizes and have additional gear measures which go beyond EU minimum requirements. Around half of all Scottish fisheries are engaged in the process of Marine Stewardship Council certification. Most recently, Scotland has implemented a ground-breaking series of Real-Time Closures ( RTCs) in EU waters to protect young cod. There is still a long way to go but the Conservation Credits Scheme provides a model of how Member States can respond effectively to biological imperatives of fisheries management while mitigating economic and social impacts.

1.3 Scotland takes its marine management responsibilities seriously, and a Marine Bill is currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament. The effect of the Scottish Marine Act when it comes into force will be to afford greater protection to the marine environment and to ensure the rational sustainable use of marine resources through a system of Marine planning.

Fishing dependent communities in Scotland

1.4 The remoteness of many parts of Scotland from the centres of commerce and business both at a national and European scale, mean that many coastal communities in Scotland are amongst the most fisheries dependent in Europe (see Fig 2). The Scottish Government is particularly aware of the importance of fisheries to rural communities, both in terms of economy and identity. A lack of alternative employment sources means that, for the communities to remain viable, local fisheries need to be sustainable and profitable. Historic fishing rights need to be protected to support these important communities. The Scottish Government is engaged in a process of establishing Inshore Fisheries Groups and is also developing community policies through the Scottish Fisheries Council Communities Group.

1.5 The future sustainability of fishing communities is an important priority for Scotland. Developing other activities including tourism and marine renewables will be important for coastal communities, but fishing will continue to be vital to many.

1.6 The challenge is to develop fisheries management arrangements which encourage sustainable behaviour and efficiency without encouraging excessive consolidation of the fleet at the expense of jobs and communities.

Fig 2. Map of Europe showing total fishery income dependence.
(Taken from Regional Dependency on Fisheries Final report for the Committee on Fisheries of the European Parliament, 2006 )

Fig 2. Map of Europe showing total fishery income dependence

1.7 The circumstances and concerns with regards to fisheries are, within the EU, unique to Scotland. Other countries with small populations, large sea areas and a high degree of fisheries dependence outside the EU (Iceland, Norway and Faroes Islands) are able to manage their fisheries effectively in a way that is not possible under the CFP. It is not surprising that Scotland aspires to the autonomy of fisheries management that these countries enjoy. We urge the Commission, in the spirit of fundamental reform, to consider alternatives to a Common Fisheries Policy. Returning power to Member States to manage their fisheries would be a radical change but could deliver the improvements we all want to see. Life outside the CFP is explored in Box 1.

1.8 Notwithstanding our stated desire for the EU to use this review to restore national control, we wish to engage as fully and constructively with that process and it is in that positive spirit that we submit that response.