FISHERIES associations in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have combined forces to urge the Scottish Government to protect the industry in the island groups through devolution.
They are seeking a meeting with Transport and Islands Minister Derek Mackay to present 10 recommendations which they claim would help secure a future for the three fisheries-dependent communities.
Commercial fishing is economically and culturally vital to the islands and accounts for around a quarter of landings, vessels and jobs in the industry in Scotland.
They seek recognition of the islands’ traditional fishing rights and access to fishing grounds.
They also want designation of the islands as “small offshore islands which are dependent on fishing” as set out in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
Fiona Matheson, secretary of the Orkney Fisheries Association, said: “As everyone in the islands knows, fishing is an absolutely essential part of economic life and it’s time this was reflected in devolved powers for the industry.
“There is all-party support for such devolution to the islands and the three island groups have come forward with 10 very practical, sensible recommendations for fisheries which we hope the minister and his colleagues in government will take very seriously.”
Ms Matheson, Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, and Duncan MacInnes, secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association, have set out their recommendations in a letter to Mr Mackay.
They also include the provision for an “opt-out” for locally-based vessels from fisheries regulations and management powers devolved to the Scottish Government, such as the proposed new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
They also seek a fair allocation of EU fisheries grants that reflects the islands’ importance to Scottish fisheries and control over Seafish levy receipts from the islands
The associations also want ‘a meaningful say in the specifications for ferry contracts between the islands and the mainland and over which operator is chosen’.
The recommendations also want islanders given the right to alter local fisheries and environmental management boundaries out to their 12-mile limit, if they so wish
Mr MacInnes said: “Changes to fishing rules and regulations not only affect the industry in the islands, they have an impact on the very communities themselves, so we must have stronger protection for our traditional rights.”
Mr Collins said: “Fishing runs through the lifeblood of these communities and has done for thousands of years, but government action – and sometimes inaction – can have a disproportionate effect. We are looking to insulate the islands from what can very often be unintended consequences.”