Implementation of the Landing Obligation
The Scottish Government is committed to sustainable fishing and minimising waste, including the discarding of fish at sea.
We remain committed to the principles behind the landing obligation, introduced as part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform in 2013. The landing obligation was intended to put in place a discards ban for all quota stocks by 2019, but there are difficulties with its implementation, in particular the threat of so-called ‘choke species’.
We will continue to work with other Member States, the advisory councils and the Commission to develop new approaches which can resolve the problems of choke species to the purpose of sensible and practicable implementation, without either undermining the sustainable management of stocks or rendering the landing obligation unenforceable.
Developing Scotland’s Future Catching Policy
We also need to take stock and move forward.
We have started a process with our stakeholders (both industry and environmental groups) through the Scottish Discards Steering Group (SDSG), to consider how to manage discards in the future and how we can avoid a situation where our stocks are over-exploited or our fleets are unnecessarily tied up.
It is right that we consider discards in the context of an overall future ‘catching policy’, which considers all of the rules and regulations governing activities at sea and helps to shape a sensible and workable structure which means fishermen can continue to put food on our tables and that our fish stocks are secured for future generations.
This will form a key element of a wider strategic consideration of future fisheries management arrangements.
Increasingly we are moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach which has caused difficulties when applied to the varied fishing fleets which Scotland enjoys – from the small boats targeting crab and lobster in inshore waters, to the large pelagic vessels which harvest our Mackerel and Herring. We are considering more bespoke arrangements for managing and controlling catches by the different fleets.
We understand that accountability is important and that the Scottish public wants to have confidence in the seafood that our fishermen produce. We will be working with the SDSG to agree how we can deliver a high-degree of confidence so that our products continue to be held in the highest regard worldwide.
We understand that it can be difficult to understand how the rules might change in the future and what steps we will need to take to transition to our future catching policy. There may not always be ready answers to questions that might be asked during this period of uncertainty. However we believe that by working constructively with you we will be in a better position to develop policies which will maintain stock sustainability and fleet profitability.
In the meantime, whilst we remain part of the European Union, CFP rules and regulations continue to apply and we will continue to abide by them.
Interaction at a UK Level
Fisheries is a devolved matter, and that is appropriate given the significant differences in fisheries across the UK and the need for management arrangements to be tailored to Scottish circumstances. There are undoubtedly areas where a common approach across the UK is desirable and mutually beneficial, but any such approach must be achieved through agreement and where legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament has been given.
The imposition of a future UK framework would undermine the existing devolved settlement, as well as damage the bespoke management arrangements which have been developed to meet particular Scottish needs and circumstances. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to fisheries would not be appropriate.