Aberdeenshire hosts visit of the North Sea Commission

Aberdeenshire has hosted a series of workshops, tours and industry meetings during a recent visit of the North Sea Commission.

Founded in 1989, the Commission is an international organisation which facilitates partnerships between regions connected with the North Sea and promotes the North Sea Region as an economic entity within Europe.

Its work is based on the four priorities set out in its strategy ‘North Sea Region 2020’ - namely Managing Maritime Space, Increased Accessibility and Sustainable Transport, Tackling Climate Change, and Attractive and Sustainable Communities.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Cllr Ann Bell, Chair of the North Sea Commission Marine Resources Group, was delighted to welcome delegates to the Banff Springs Hotel on Wednesday before they embarked on a series of events and discussions laid on by Aberdeenshire Council and maritime industry partners.

​Cllr Ann Bell (left), Chair of the North Sea Commission Marine Resources Group, welcomes delegates to Aberdeenshire​Cllr Ann Bell (left), Chair of the North Sea Commission Marine Resources Group, welcomes delegates to Aberdeenshire
​Cllr Ann Bell (left), Chair of the North Sea Commission Marine Resources Group, welcomes delegates to Aberdeenshire

Delegates were given tours of Macduff Shipyard and the Marine Aquarium operated by Live Life Aberdeenshire, while others visited Fraserburgh Harbour and the Ocean Winds Energy base.

Discussions centred around how the fishing fleet can make the transition towards greater energy-efficiency and what actions are need from both regions and ports to support that transition.

The fishing and associated industries here in Aberdeenshire are vital contributors to the economy of the north east and it is critical that the sector maintains its renewable practices and improves their catching methods and understanding of developments within the industry.

Working with Aberdeenshire Council’s Economic Development teams has helped to strengthen relationships for fisherman, the fishing sector and businesses both here and with many other countries around the North Sea.

Delegates found the visit to Macduff Marine Aquarium fascinatingDelegates found the visit to Macduff Marine Aquarium fascinating
Delegates found the visit to Macduff Marine Aquarium fascinating

And with all coastal regions being confronted with the race for space at sea, there was also discussion around marine spatial squeeze and the need for the fishing industry to have an equal voice, when future development in the North Sea were being considered.

With input from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Ocean Winds an open and constructive discussion took place.

The visit to Fraserburgh also highlighted the co – existence between Frasebrurgh Harbour and Ocean Winds Energy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On Thursday evening, Provost of Aberdeenshire Cllr Judy Whyte hosted a dinner for the delegates which set them up for a busy day of further discussions on Friday.

Among the topics debated under the sustainable blue economy and aquaculture and fisheries banner were how regions can support ‘blue careers’ and skills transition, with examples being provided by various organisations including Maritime Campus Flevoland, Scottish Maritime Academy Aberdeenshire, Project on Catching the Potential and West-Vlaanderen/PM.

This was followed by a look at the working methods of the NSC Marine Resources Group which included an outline of the new 2023-2025 Action Plan and priorities and opportunities for collaboration.

Delegates also discussed Integrated maritime planning and looked ahead to the main focal points in the year ahead for both the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions and North Sea Commission.

Following the visit, Cllr Bell said: “This meeting has highlighted the common challenges we share with our neighbours around the North Sea and the need to provide a safe and private space to support interaction between our fishing industry and other users of the North Sea.

"There was also a very strong commitment to working together to support our fishing industry and communities.”

Jan Nico Appleman, Regional Minister for the Province of Flavoland and vice-chair of the NSC MRG, added: “The tour of Macduff Shipyards was very interesting for the delegates and it was good to visit a company with a long distinguished history in shipbuilding which is now at the forefront of fisheries innovation.

"We also enjoyed a visit to the Macduff Marine Aquarium which is a truly incredible attraction which highlights the very important ecosystem of the North Sea in one space.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Council Leader Cllr Mark Findlater commented: “I am hugely supportive of the important work undertaken by the North Sea Commission and it was tremendous to welcome so many delegates to Aberdeenshire for their recent activities.

"There is no doubt that this combination of politicians and scientists is absolutely critical to understanding the opportunities and challenges facing the maritime sector.

“The feedback I got from the delegates who met with our fishermen and industry representatives during visits to Macduff and Fraserburgh was that it was hugely-informative and the wider round-the table discussions which included spatial maritime planning will assist greatly in the Commission’s aims of getting it right for everyone – not just here in the north-east but for all our North Sea partners.”