Clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas- John’s Speech on Fisheries

Yesterday, 07/12/16  the Parliament debated the future of Scotland’s fisheries. You can read John’s speech in the debate below.

John Finnie MSP:

“Our national marine plan outlines a vision for

“Clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people.”

I hope that we all support that position.

My colleague Gail Ross highlighted the use of the term “expendable”, which I too wanted to mention. Our “proud fishing industry”—as the cabinet secretary referred to it—was never, and should never be, expendable. It was not right previously and it is not right for the future.

I have gained the impression from the discussion, not in the chamber today but in the press and elsewhere, that some people will view it as payback time if Scotland leaves the EU. The leave campaign talked about escaping the “disastrous” CFP to “claim back our fish”, which is a highly simplistic approach. Devising any new management regime will be much more complicated than that, for a number of reasons that have already been highlighted, such as the mobility of the commercial species that are fished, which travel through the waters of several countries during their lifetime. It is crucial that, in everything that we do, we determine the actual distribution and abundance of fish stocks from independent research, not just from landings. That would include research on the key spawning and nursery areas and migration pathways.

The North Sea, which has been mentioned frequently in the debate, is bounded by seven countries, so the EU, the UK, Scotland and our coastal communities have a shared responsibility to manage stocks. The Scottish Green Party wants to protect those vital stocks, and we would seek to have the CFP extend powers to regional management bodies that would help stakeholders to work together to prevent unsustainable exploitation of fish stocks and to actively recover the habitats that make up our marine environment. We support the prioritisation of high-value, low-impact fishing methods that support coastal communities. It is important that we mention communities, as fishing is not some abstract industry but one that supports land-based communities.

Although it is not hugely relevant to today’s debate, we want a moratorium on new—

John Scott MSP:

“Will the member take an intervention?”

John Finnie:


John Scott MSP

“Without wishing to reincarnate Jamie McGrigor, I am concerned that no one has yet mentioned the depletion of stocks in the west coast fisheries, which seems to be an abiding problem on which the minister touched. Do the Greens have any answers to that problem? It appears to have been intractable for as long as I can remember, and no one has yet managed to resolve it. Does John Finnie have any ideas for how the depletion of stocks might be reversed in the west coast fisheries and the Firth of Clyde?”

John Finnie MSP:

“I do not personally, but I commend to Mr Scott and to all members the approach that says that everything should have a scientific basis rather than being based simply on commercial exploitation. The cabinet secretary spoke about the need to respect scientific evidence, which is very important. The role that Scotland’s marine protected areas play involves planning that is based on scientific evidence, and it is important that communities are engaged in that work so that protected areas are implemented with those communities rather than—as is often perceived—being something that is done to them.

I know that there are conflicts between groups. The Scottish Green Party supports sustainable fishing, and if there is no fishing industry where there historically was one, that fishery has clearly not been sustainable.

We are very concerned about the destructive method of dredging, which damages the environment, and we also refute the nonsense about ploughing the sea bed to restore it. Anyone can see the damage that has been done. There is ample video evidence out there about how marine areas can recover, as has happened in some of the restricted areas around Wester Ross. We want our maritime resources to be viewed as an entire community resource.

On representative bodies, there have been many references to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, but of course it does not speak for the whole industry. I commend the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation and the various other fishermen’s federations. I am sure that the cabinet secretary will engage with all bodies and not just that single one.

Over the weekend, we have had talk of efforts to evade the scrutiny that is absolutely vital to ensure that our marine stocks are maintained. Marine monitoring is vital, which is why the Green Party will support the Labour Party amendment. Marine monitoring staff play an important role in preserving our fishing stocks. As has been said, there should be no loss of remuneration for those important public employees—they are public servants who work in very hazardous circumstances.

Some positives come out of the common fisheries policy. I know that many have derided it, but there have undoubtedly been some benefits—not everything can be transferred into pounds, shillings and pence on the quayside. The situation with discards is often referred to. The discard ban will benefit a sustainable fishery and has the potential to increase overall fishing revenue and resilience. It is about selectivity. Much has been made of the innovations that have been put in place with gear, which we certainly support. There are clear economic arguments for that.

I commend the briefings that we have received from WWF and the RSPB, which others have mentioned.

Catch limits are in accordance with scientific advice. We may all wish to see maximised catches but, as John Scott alluded to, where historically there has been a fishery and there is no longer one, that shows that the method used did not work. Certainly, some of the tactics that were employed in the 1970s and 1980s contributed to such situations. The issue is important, because we need to retain a reputation as a supplier of high-quality and sustainable food.”

You can also watch John’s speech using the link below.