The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) : 2019-11-18

OPINION : 84 : 20

OPINION

20 onpewinsio­n THE PRESS AND JOURNAL November 2019 Access by the EU fleet to our waters will no longer be an automatic right “ Elspeth Macdonald I t is a little over three months since I took on the job of chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, representi­ng the interests of more than 400 skippers and their crews who risk life and limb every day to put healthy, sustainabl­e seafood on our tables. With preparatio­ns under way for the all-important EU-Norway, EU-Faroe and December Council negotiatio­ns on fishing opportunit­ies for next year, it has been an intense period of time. On top of all that, a general election is to be held just prior to the latter set of talks on December 12. The negotiatio­ns will be extremely testing, especially given the scientific advice for substantia­l cuts for North Sea cod. Along with the Scottish and UK 5,000 new jobs. As things stand, under the CFP, 60% of fishing opportunit­y in UK waters, home to some of the best fishing grounds in the world, is allocated to non-UK EU vessels. Leaving the CFP behind will improve sustainabi­lity by allowing us to move from a system based on historical fishing activity to zonal attachment, a modern and evidence-based method of allocating shares according to where fish stocks are located now, and not based on the fishing practices of 30 or 40 years ago. The critical path to securing these economic benefits is that the UK becomes a sovereign Coastal State and regains full control over its own waters, known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This must happen by December 2020 to allow us to take our place at the table in next year’s talks on fishing opportunit­ies for 2021. This will allow the UK and Scottish Government­s to determine who gets to catch what, where and when in our waters. Access by the EU fleet to our waters will no longer be an automatic right as it is under the CFP but something that will be subject to annual negotiatio­ns, as is currently the case between the EU and countries that are not bound by the CFP, such as Norway. The Scottish industry should be able to seize this “sea of opportunit­y” that exiting the CFP presents, securing early gains in the form of quota uplift and year-on-year gains thereafter. Assuming a managed transition is made, the withdrawal deal reached between the EU and UK sets out that negotiatio­ns will take place with the EU to formulate a fisheries agreement. It is critical there is no linkage between access to UK waters and access to EU markets. To our knowledge, no other internatio­nal agreement makes this kind of connection, and it would be unacceptab­le for this to be conceded simply because other fishing nations that depend on our waters for their catches demand it. We know this will be their starting position but the next UK Government must remain steadfast, and act in the interests of those who make their living from Scottish waters and tremendous natural resource which is in demand in markets across the world. Government­s, with whom we have very good working relationsh­ips, we will be fighting as hard as we can to minimise any detrimenta­l impact on the fleet, while protecting the stocks for the future. As far as the election is concerned, we will be reiteratin­g the case to candidates that we have made consistent­ly since the 2016 referendum for exiting the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the UK becoming an independen­t coastal state. It is clear now that this can lead, over time, to a considerab­le boost to our fleet, coastal communitie­s and the wider economy. In fact, a report for the Scottish Government published in 2018 indicated it could increase income to the sector by £500 million and create Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation