Scots overwhelmingly supportive of fishing sector

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Polling shows UK-produced food as important as UK-produced energy

A LARGE majority of Scots are backing the fishing industry amid growing pressure on fishing grounds, in a reminder to politicians not to neglect an important sector ahead of the general election.

A new poll commissioned by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) reveals that 19 in 20 (95.7%) of Scots believe it is important for the UK to retain control over its fisheries.

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Conducted by Opinion Matters, the poll also highlights that 91% agree fishing is a vital part of the UK economy. Additionally, 89.7% of people agree that UK-produced food is just as important as UK-produced energy.

Elspeth Macdonald, CEO of SFFElspeth Macdonald, CEO of SFF
Elspeth Macdonald, CEO of SFF

Furthermore, 93.3% of Scots believe UK fishing fleets should be given priority in UK waters. Nine in 10 (87.5%) agree that Scotland's fisheries are a valuable source of healthy dietary protein.

The findings come amid increasing pressures from vast offshore renewable projects, which threaten to encroach on traditional fishing grounds.

These issues will be debated by an election hustings panel including Kate Forbes, Rhoda Grant, Rachael Hamilton and Alastair Carmichael in Edinburgh tomorrow (12 June) at an event hosted by SFF.

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Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: “These opinion poll results vindicate the fishing industry’s contention that covering our seas with giant offshore windfarms without any thought being given to food production is wholly counter-productive.

Fishermen sat on the harbourFishermen sat on the harbour
Fishermen sat on the harbour

Fishing is one of the lowest-carbon forms of food production in existence and displacing the catching sector simply places the burden onto more carbon-intensive alternatives.

“It is clear that renewable energy is needed on a greater scale to combat climate change but home-produced climate-smart food is also part of the solution to how we reach net zero.”

The industrialisation of our seas with offshore renewables must not be at the expense of our fishing industry if we are to produce enough food as well as produce enough energy.

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“As the public clearly recognises, there needs to be a significant change of mindset by both government and developers before it is too late and fishermen are put out of business. We would not cover our best agricultural land with solar panels. So why should we fill our best fishing grounds with massive wind farms?”

Fishermen mending a netFishermen mending a net
Fishermen mending a net

The Scottish Government decided in the summer of 2023 to shelve its plans to ban fishing in up to 10% of Scottish waters. However, the threat of additional conservation zones being imposed on the industry remains. Combined with the advent of colossal offshore renewables projects, fishermen are being squeezed out of traditional fishing grounds.

This “spatial squeeze” has been identified by independent research as having the potential to close more than half of Scottish waters to fishing fleets by 2050. Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised, an area of 213,000 km² (46% of Scottish waters) is likely to be lost by then, threatening the very existence of fishing businesses and causing severe harm to coastal communities. Most of this area is likely already to have been lost to fishing by 2030.

Macdonald continued: “As the public has shown, there is strong support for maintaining control over our fisheries. It is crucial that we balance our approach to energy production with the need to preserve our vital fishing industry. Ignoring this balance could lead to the decimation of coastal communities and a significant loss in home-produced food.”

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With the upcoming election, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation urges politicians to demonstrate their support for the fishing industry and coastal communities. The SFF calls for candidates to prioritise policies that protect fishing grounds and ensure sustainable practices.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is calling for a re-evaluation of current policies to ensure that the fishing industry is not overlooked in the race to expand renewable energy. The industry’s low-carbon footprint and economic importance must be factored into any future decisions.

Opinion Matters surveyed 1005 Scottish adults between 03-07 June 2024.

To find out more about the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, please visit: https://sff.co.uk/