Memorandum submitted by the Scottish Executive
1. This memorandum on behalf of the Scottish
Executive is intended to explain the background to the announcement,
on 8 March 2001 by Rhona Brankin, Scottish Fisheries Minister,
of a £27 million package of aid for the Scottish fishing
industry; and the detail of the support measures involved.
2. Some key fish stocks are in poor health,
in part as a result of overfishing. The EU Fisheries Council decided
in December 2000, on scientific advice, to reduce many total allowable
catches (TACs) and quotas, some by a substantial proportion. This
will reduce the tonnage and value of landings this year below
their actual levels during 2000 and follows reductions in the
overall value of landings during both 1999 and 2000. Whitefish
stocks are most seriously affected.
3. Further EU conservation measures are
under discussion and planned to enable key stocks to recover from
their present state. Cod and hake recovery plans are being negotiated
and are likely to incorporate measures (net mesh size increases
etc) which will have a further impact on catches.
4. A central issue is fleet overcapacity,
at EU and national level. Although the UK is currently largely
within its EU fleet structure (MAGP IV) targets, there are too
many boats chasing too few fish. This threatens the economic viability
of individual vessels. These economic pressures have been exacerbated
by recent fuel price increases. Economic pressure on fishermen
in turn encourages over-quota catches or activities (such as "high
grading" or evasion of technical gear measures) which are
counter to fish conservation and sustainability aims.
5. The fish processing industry also faces
pressures as a result of rising costs (due, for example, to burdens
related to waste water handling requirements, veterinary inspections
etc), reduced supply of raw materials and, particularly for primary
processors, pressure on margins.
6. These issues pose particular challenges
for Scotland. The majority of the UK interest in whitefish lies
in Scotland and there is a high level of fisheries dependency
in some areas.
7. Around two-thirds of landings of whitefish
by UK fishing vessels are made by vessels based in Scotland; and
roughly the same proportion of landings made into the UK are made
into Scotland. Some 600 Scottish-based vessels have access, or
(by virtue of the type of fishing licence they hold) potential
access, to whitefish quotas. In practice, around 300 Scottish
vessels, based primarily in the North East and Northern Isles,
catch a significant quantity of the main whitefish stocks (cod,
haddock, whiting, hake) of most concern. Most of the remainder
catch significant proportions of nephrops and scallops, stocks
of which are also under some pressure.
8. Fisheries dependency in Scotland is higher
than elsewhere in the UK, with up to one third of all jobs in
some areas dependent on fisheries. The Scottish whitefish fleet
is heavily dependent on the stocks to which the greatest reductions
in quota apply. Particular issues are posed for Scottish fishermen
because of the mixed nature of their fishing and the high dependence
on catches of haddock and, to a lesser extent, whitingboth
smaller fish than cod and catches of which are therefore likely
to be more significantly affected by selectivity (mesh size) measures.
There are significant onshore processing industries which rely
on locally caught supplies of fish. There is, in some of the remoter
areas of Scotland in particular, little or no alternative employment.
9. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF)
has made a case to the Scottish Executive for investment in the
industry to aid conservation and the economic sustainabilty of
the fleet in the form of a vessel decommissioning scheme and a
temporary, compensated lay-up scheme. The latter scheme is intended
to operate both in the short term while certain areas in the North
Sea have been temporarily closed to fishing and also over a longer
period until such time as stocks recover.
10. The issues facing the whitefish processing
sector have been the subject of a report to Ministers by a joint
Scottish White Fish Processing Action Group, which has set out
a series of recommendations for action.
11. The response measures to be taken by
the Scottish Executive, announced by Rhona Brankin on 8 March
2001, comprise a £27 million package of measures including:
up to £25 million for decommissioning;
£1 million to implement recommendations
in the Scottish Fish Processing Action Group report; and
£1 million for a "scientific
partnership" between fishermen and scientists; aimed at involving
the industry in research projects to improve conservation.
12. Funding for the measures has been found
by bringing forward expenditure provision in the Scottish Executive's
fisheries structural funding (FIFG) programmes and by reallocating
uncommitted expenditure from within the Scottish Executive.
13. Support from other areas for fisheries-related
issues may be availablefor example from the enterprise
networks in Scotland or national programmes to deal with the employment
effects of industry re-structuring; or, in relevant areas, from
EC structural funds to promote diversification away from fisheries
14. The Executive has declined to provide
support for compensated vessel lay-ups because it has not been
persuaded of the conservation effects of a short-term scheme or
that the commitment of public funds either in the short or longer
term for this purpose would represent value for money. It believesand
recent scientific research suggeststhat sustainable fisheries
can be undertaken using recommended gear selectivity enhancements.
Continued, sustainable fishing also helps ensure continuity of
supply for processors already subject to reduced availability
of raw materials.
15. Details of the proposed decommissioning
scheme are being worked up, in consultation with industry and
the other Fisheries Departments in the UK. It is intended that
the scheme, which will remove vessels and fishing vessel licences
from the closed system of licences which operates in the UK, will
operate through competitive bids from eligible fishermen. The
main objective for the scheme will be to remove fishing capacity
targeting the key threatened whitefish stocks, although appropriate
weight may be given to other benefits (eg the removal of nephrops/scallops
capacity). It is hoped to launch the scheme, which will require
Scottish legislation and EC State Aid approval) by the summer.
16. Discussions with scientists and the
industry are also underway on the scientific research partnership.
Agreement has been reached on a programme of conservation research.
A number of initiatives are already underway involving the chartering
of fishing vessels for research work. Depending on the progress
of further discussions, there may be some adaptation of the balance
of resource commitment between the research partnership and decommissioning.
17. The Executive has also accepted the
majority of the recommendations in the Processing Working Group
report. Some actions do not require central Government funding.
Support will however be provided for a range of initiatives including
developing systems for e-commerce; joint ventures; and the creation
of a quality accredition scheme for fish processors. Appropriate
weight will also be given, in considering bids from processors
for FIFG support under the Scottish programmes, to actions highlighted
in the Group's report and which fit with strategic priorities.
18. The foregoing is offered by way of information
to the Select Committee, on behalf of the Scottish Executive.
8 May 2001