Mike Park: Brexit could mean huge rewards for fishing sector
If, as we hope, Brexit results in the UK attaining Coastal State status like Norway, our Âindigenous fishing industry will look very different in ten years' time.
With control of our own waters it will be up to us to determine who gets access, when and to what. This will lead to Scotland securing a far greater share of the stocks that swim in our waters and deliver greater stability for the coastal communities that still bear the scars of a failed Common Fisheries Policy.
With power comes responsibility, and very soon the burden of responsibility will rest upon our shoulders. It will be important to put in place structures and processes that promote good governance; co-management groups with shared responsibility and accountability. The challenge of protecting our stocks will become the responsibility of the Scottish Government, a consequence of the devolution settlement that many continue to overlook.
Responsibility for negotiating with the EU and Norway on the international stage will remain the competence of the UK government. That said, there is a strong rationale for Scotland to take the lead in negotiations that involve access to Scottish waters or catches of our major stocks.
The Scottish Government has made clear its preference for inclusive management. The building of policy from the bottom-up will be at odds with the current top-down, paternalistic style of governance that Europe continues to apply. Delivering a new, sustainable fishing policy will be an immensely rewarding yet difficult challenge. As current leaders in the field of selectivity and stock protection, Scotland’s fishermen will be expected to apply a responsible attitude and progressive leadership.
So what is to be done?
George Eustice, the UK fisheries minister, is very supportive of retaining vast elements of the CFP including the hugely unpopular landing obligation. That is why we are pleased that Scotland’s seas will become the responsibility of the Scottish Government.
This will provide a further unique opportunity for Scotland to prosper. Not only would we have a larger share of what is removed from Scotland’s seas, but the marketplace will draw confidence from the way we manage our fisheries.
After all, it is the actions and sacrifices of fishermen in adjusting gear and altering fishing patterns that have been largely responsible for the resurgence of North Sea stocks.
Scotland’s fishing industry can become great once again, with obvious benefits for engineering, haulage and processing firms that often go unmentioned, and communities which are sustained by jobs and income.
But we need to remember that the measure of success will be much wider than the earnings of our fleet. What we deliver for wider society will be a far more important criterion that many will rightly judge us against.
We are confident we can do this because ours is one of the most resilient industries in the country, with a track record of adaptability and innovation. So we are ready – the question is, are our politicians and civil servants?
Mike Park is chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association.