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Pledge to protect fishing industry is signed by Rural Affairs Secretary

By Kyle Ritchie

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SCOTLAND’S Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has signed a pledge to protect and support the country’s vital fishing industry and coastal communities.

The commitment was made ahead of her introductory speech at Skipper Expo – the industry’s largest gathering taking place at P&J Live in Aberdeen.

She joins more than half of all backbench MSPs, as well as Anas Sarwar, Alex Cole-Hamilton and Douglas Ross, Scottish party leaders of Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives respectively.

Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has signed a pledge to protect and support Scotland’s vital fishing industry and coastal communities.
Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has signed a pledge to protect and support Scotland’s vital fishing industry and coastal communities.

During her speech, the Cabinet Secretary said: “I know that the relationship between industry and government can be fragile, and that was shown last year by the results to the consultation that was undertaken on Highly Protected Marine Areas; but we listened to your concerns and we decided not to move forward with that.

“Since then we have focused even more on listening to the views of the fishing industry and have really tried to move forward in that spirit of cooperation, and we are continuing to make good progress on delivering some key priorities under our Fisheries Management Strategy.

“We should always celebrate the Scottish fishing industry, our seafood is second to none, and I think it’s vital that industry not just survives, but thrives for the future, and that's why I was delighted to sign my name to the pledge earlier this morning.”

Gaining the signature of Ms Gougeon is being seen as a landmark moment for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), with the pledge forming an element of its Pride in the Seas campaign.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive with the SFF, said: “SFF was delighted that the newly reappointed Cabinet Secretary signed our Pride in the Seas pledge.

“She spoke in hugely supportive terms about our sector today and took time to talk with exhibitors and fishermen at the Expo.

“This can be the inflection point. We share the Cabinet Secretary’s vision for healthy and productive seas and there is incredible passion from those in the sector to protect our tremendous marine resources – and this industry – for future generations.

“Likewise fishing has a vital role in food security and the country’s net zero aspirations – and the provision of sustainably sourced and low-carbon protein has never been more important.

“We now need the Scottish Government to deliver policies that match John Swinney’s words about focussing on jobs, the economy and the things that matter to people in Scotland.

“This must be a line in the sand for us to return to constructive and collaborative discussion that will strike the right balance between conservation and sustainable harvesting of our seas.”

“Pride in the Seas” is an exhibition and campaign run by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation in partnership with renowned photographer Ian Georgeson.

It was debuted in Holyrood in late March and has taken a prominent position at Skipper Expo ahead of a tour later in the year.

The pledge signed by politicians calls on enhanced support of Scotland’s fishing communities, fishing’s role in food security, the importance of protection against loss of access to key fishing grounds and ensuring that policies recognise and support fishing’s role in producing low carbon, healthy and nutritious food.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023 the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation was established to represent a sustainable, prosperous fishing industry in Scotland.

“It was borne in response to the need for greater political engagement when the UK joined the EU and in adapting to the first oil exploration which saw the proliferation of other activities in the historic fishing grounds of the North Sea.

Fighting for the interests of 450 fishing vessels in Scotland’s fleet, the federation is made up of eight associations which represent the sector from small creel boats to large pelagic and white fish trawlers.

The Pledge that was signed is:

I pledge to support Scotland’s fishing communities by:

• Supporting fishermen at sea and their colleagues ashore as a vital part of Scotland’s food story.

• Being a champion of the healthy, nutritious and sustainable food they produce.

• Being proud of this low carbon, climate-smart food sector.

• Supporting the call for strong, focused science to increase understanding.

• Backing the sector to get a fair deal in our crowded seas.

• Agreeing that food security is as important as energy security.

• Working with fishermen and fishing communities to ensure that they don’t just survive but will thrive in the decades to come.

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