A PROMINENT fishing industry leader will tonight warn that the impending introduction of a discards ban, if badly implemented, could spell economic disaster for Scotland’s fragile fishing communities.
Alan Coghill, the president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, will warn guests attending the SFF’s annual dinner in Edinburgh that the gap between political decision-making and the practical implementation of fisheries management measures must be bridged to avoid serious socio-economic difficulties for coastal communities.
Mr Coghill will state: “Discards are supported by nobody, least of all the industry, but at the moment there is absolutely no meat on the bones on how a discards ban would be implemented and the scientists have already begun to question the validity and practicality of the exemptions and the flexibility measures suggested.”
He continues: “Efforts were made at an early stage to seek a practical solution to achieve a much decreased level of discards, but driven by the extreme environmental lobby, who will ultimately have responsibility for the final biological and socio-economic consequences, government ministers, the Commission and EU Parliament have chosen the ultimate route which may well prove unworkable for some fleets, however hard they try to comply.”
Mr Coghill states: “From a Scottish perspective it is likely to result in a much reduced fleet size with resultant social and economic consequences for already beleaguered fishing communities.”
Mr Coghill will also say that it is essential that the Scottish Government works as closely as possible with the fishing industry in regard to the collation of data on fish stock trends to ensure that as much information as possible is fed into the assessment process.
Meanwhile, Bertie Armstrong, the federation’s chief executive, will also underline the importance of government and industry in engaging in a constructive way. He will state: “For this process to work – and not just for discards implementation but in all areas of fisheries management - there must be continuous refinement of the engagement between government and fishermen. There needs to be ceaseless work by both the government and industry to continuously improve the communication and cooperation system so as to deliver real and practical results.”