Motion: Faroese Withdrawal from Herring International Management Plan

Motion S4M-05462: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 24/01/2013

Faroese Withdrawal from Herring International Management Plan
That the Parliament expresses its concern at the Faroe Islands’ withdrawal from international sharing arrangements for the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock; understands that this withdrawal will result in the Faroe Islands setting its own unilateral quota for the species and that the Faroe Islands has previously withdrawn from international stock management plans for mackerel, which has since led to mackerel being removed by the Marine Conservation Society from its list of fish suitable to eat; considers the future of sustainable fisheries to lie in internationally agreed stock management plans and not in unilateral action, and supports the calls of the Scottish fishing industry, which continues to fish sustainably, for sanctions to be imposed unless all concerned parties can reach an agreed management plan.

Motion: Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s Seafood Champion Nomination

Date of Lodging: 24 July 2012

Short Title: Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s Seafood Champion Nomination

S4M-03699 Jean Urquhart () (Scottish National Party): That the Parliament congratulates the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group on being shortlisted for the Seafood Champion Awards in Hong Kong; understands that the group is one of 15 finalists and that the winner will be announced on 7 September 2012; considers this nomination to be a recognition of the dedication of the Scottish fishing industry to sustainable fishing practices; recognises the importance of fishing to the Scottish economy, particularly to Shetland, where the industry is a major employer and component of the local economy; believes that continued reform of the common fisheries policy is essential for the industry to continue to play this role, and wishes the group success in the future.

Press Release: Highlands and Islands MSP Welcomes Agreement on Fisheries Sanctions (June 28th)

Jean Urquhart MSP has welcomed the announcement of a comprehensive sanctions package against countries engaged in unsustainable fishing practices.

The SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands spoke after an agreement was reached that could see Iceland and the Faroe Islands face sanctions for their unilateral setting of massive quotas for mackerel.

Commenting, Mrs Urquhart said:

“A vibrant fisheries sector is a vital part of the economy for my region, so I was pleased to see the introduction of these long-awaited measures.

“Ensuring that sustainable fishing practices are adhered to by all nations is a vital step in maintaining the future of the sector, and this package should strengthen the hand of responsible fishing nations in dealing with those who put short-term desires over long term co-operation.

“Iceland has unilaterally increased its mackerel quota to over 400 times of its 2005 size, an exponential increase that clearly is to their long-term detriment.

“I hope that this package will encourage both Iceland and the Faroe Islands to return to the negotiating table in October and agree to a sensible and sustainable fisheries deal that will benefit us all.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart MSP Raises Fate of Shetland Box During Ministerial Statement (June 18th)

The retention of the Shetland Box, a vital conservation area whose future was not confirmed by the European Commission in their policy papers, was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Jean Urquhart during a Ministerial Statement on reforming the Common Fisheries Policy on June 14th.

After Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, had updated the Chamber on the current situation, Jean Urquhart MSP asked whether the Cabinet Secretary knew whether or not the Shetland Box is to be retained.

In replying, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that there was no decision made as of yet, but that he had “asked the European Commission why the Shetland Box was missing from the draft regulations that it published” and was awaiting an answer.

After the statement, Jean Urquhart commented:

“I was pleased to hear that the retention of the Shetland Box has been raised at the highest level by the Scottish Government. The hard work of the Cabinet Secretary and the Scottish Government on securing the best deal we can for our fishing industry within our constitutional parameters is very welcome. Approximately a decade ago, the European Commission attempted to remove similar protections that Ireland possesses in their waters, but persistent lobbying by the Irish Government prevented that from occurring.

“The removal of the Shetland Box would put enormous pressure on the species currently caught there on license, and would be another example of how we are adversely affected by the lack of a seat at the top table. As the Cabinet Secretary said yesterday, our influence over the future of fishing policy can only be increased by having our own seat as an independent member state.”

Oral Question on the Shetland Box (June 14th)

Jean Urquhart:

During last week’s debate on reform of the common fisheries policy, I raised the issue of the Shetland box, the retention of which has not been explicitly confirmed by the European Commission in its reform package. Does the minister know whether the Shetland box is to be retained? If it is not, will the minister support its retention?


Richard Lochhead:

There has been no decision yet on the future of the Shetland box and that was not one of the key issues discussed at the negotiations. As members can imagine, that was due to the fact that this week‟s negotiations were on the general approach to the reform process. Many of the individual measures within the regulations will be negotiated in the future. We have, however, asked the European Commission why the Shetland box was missing from the draft regulations that it published, and we await an answer from the Commission.

Speech: Common Fisheries Policy Reform (June 7th)

I suspect that I am going to put the opposite case from that put by Margaret McDougall. As a member for a region with a real dependency on the fishing industry, I am pleased to support the motion. With fish accounting for 59 per cent of all food exported from Scotland and £500 million-worth of fish landed by Scottish vessels in 2011, the value of the industry to Scotland‟s economy cannot be overstated.

The common fisheries policy has failed to work for Scotland and for Scotland’s fishing industry. The reforms, as currently proposed, will continue that unfortunate trend to the detriment of many of the communities in my region.

One of the most important principles of the European Union is that of subsidiarity: namely, that decisions should be taken at the most appropriate and most local level possible. However, that has never been the case with fisheries. The blanket approach of the European Commission to fisheries suffocates the ability of regions and nations to adapt to their own particular circumstances and needs, and endangers the very conservation that the common fisheries policy is intended to promote.

The difficulties posed by the imposition of centrally decided targets and quotas have only been exacerbated by the lack of a distinct Scottish voice at the decision table, and that has resulted in our interests being traded away by successive UK Governments. The inability of the Scottish Government, on behalf of Scotland as an independent nation, to directly influence the policy within the Council of Ministers puts us at a unique disadvantage. It is an absolute scandal that, while we remain gagged, ministers from landlocked nations such as Slovakia and Hungary are able to directly influence policies that have a negligible impact on their economies, but a potentially devastating impact on ours.

The proposal to introduce a compulsory quota trading system, nebulously called “transferable fishing concessions”, is just one of the many proposals that should give us cause for concern. The opportunity for wealthy companies to use their financial means to purchase fishing rights from hard-pressed fishermen is one that we should all be wary of, particularly as it appears that no safeguards have been put in place to prevent that practice from devastating the principle of relative stability, which has, so far, held firm.

Although there is a commitment to retain the 6 and 12-mile limits for coastal fisheries, the lack of any explicit reference in the proposals to retain, for example, the Shetland box—a protected coastal fisheries area of great importance to the Shetland Islands and Scotland as a whole—is of grave concern. I urge the Scottish Government to clarify the future of the Shetland box and, if the Shetland box is threatened, to do its best to protect those waters from being opened up, as the Irish did some years ago when their waters were under threat.

It must be remembered that, in rural areas in particular, each industry or sector helps to support many others. A set of reforms that hurts Scottish fishing also hurts our processing industries, our food and drink sector and our tourism sector—all major employers in the Highlands and Islands and nationwide.

Regardless of our constitutional views, it is in the interests of us all to push for our voice to be heard at the negotiating table, and not just with Westminster’s permission. The decision to send an unelected member of the House of Lords rather than a Scottish representative to an informal fisheries council meeting in April 2010 is just one example of party politics stepping on the toes of national interests. Surely all of us would decry that decision.

For the first time, thanks to the treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament will have a say in reforming the common fisheries policy. As a Parliament, we must work in conjunction with Scotland‟s six MEPs to ensure that a strong cross-party and national voice is heard. Surely we can all unite on that for the fishing industry in Scotland, with its obvious history and heritage.

I once more affirm my support for the motion and urge all MSPs to back the Government’s efforts to promote our interests in Westminster and Europe.

Written Questions: Mackerel Fishing (June 2012)

To ask the Scottish Executive what assistance it has given to fish producer organisations affected by the reported lack of access to waters around the Faroe Islands for mackerel fishing.

Answered by Richard Lochhead (25/06/2012): The absence of an agreement between the EU and the Faroe Islands for mutual access to fishing waters has caused a number of significant disruptions to the Scottish fishing industry. Most importantly, the setting of unilateral and excessive quotas by the Faroe Islands (and Iceland) places the long term sustainability of the mackerel stock in jeopardy. At present, however, Scottish vessels prosecuting the mackerel fishery in EU waters are able to access significant fishing opportunities. The provisional UK 2012 allocation of mackerel is over 130,000 tonnes, and this will be adjusted upwards when final allocations are made.
Current Status: Answered by Richard Lochhead on 25/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive what the value is of the returned quotas that have been allocated to the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and the (a) Orkney, (b) Shetland and (c) Lunar fish producer organisations.

Answered by Richard Lochhead (25/06/2012): The value of any fish quota, in terms of the price per tonne achieved at first sale, can fluctuate considerably in light of prevailing market conditions. Any estimate of value can therefore only be an approximation. Noting this level of uncertainty, the table below shows the approximate value of quotas allocated to the Fish Producer Organisations noted there. These estimates are based on average first sale prices in 2011.

Producer Organisation Value allocated (£ millions)
Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation 2.12
Orkney FPO 0.20
Shetland FPO 0.23
Lunar FPO 0.02
Current Status: Answered by Richard Lochhead on 25/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive whether returned quotas that are allocated to the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and the (a) Orkney, (b) Shetland and (c) Lunar fish producer organisations are directed to the producer organisations or to specific vessels.

Answered by Richard Lochhead (25/06/2012): Allocations of fish quota are made to Fish Producer Organisations. In the case of the quotas that were reserved by the European Union to facilitate a mutual access agreement with the Faroe Islands (where agreement was not reached and therefore quotas will be returned to EU member states) allocations have been made to producer organisations with member vessels that have fished in Faroese waters in recent years (2009 and 2010). The purpose of the allocation is therefore to provide assistance to producer organisations with members active in the Faroese fishery. It is for producer organisations to decide how to make that assistance available to individual members.
Current Status: Answered by Richard Lochhead on 25/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive when the returned quotas that have been allocated to the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and the (a) Orkney, (b) Shetland and (c) Lunar fish producer organisations will come into force.

Answered by Richard Lochhead (25/06/2012): These fish quotas can be utilised now.It is the practice of the UK Fisheries Administrations to issue provisional allocations of fish quotas in the early part of the year. These provisional allocations then become final allocations later in the year, when all in-year amendments made by the EU and any adjustments made as a consequence of the application of UK quota management rules (for example, in relation to any penalties for over-fishing) can be taken into account. Provisional allocations for 2012 have already been issued. It is expected that final allocations will be issued shortly, although there remains provision in quota management rules for allocations to be adjusted further (for example where producer organisations wish to “borrow” from 2013 quotas).

Current Status: Answered by Richard Lochhead on 25/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with the Faroe Islands Government on the resumption of access to mackerel fishing

Answered by Richard Lochhead (25/06/2012): The Scottish Government has actively participated in all rounds of negotiations between the coastal states for mackerel so far. We act as part of the UK delegation to the European Union, the EU being the Coastal State with negotiating authority on behalf of member states. The latest round ended without agreement in Reykjavik in February. Since then, Scottish Government officials have engaged with the Faroe Islands Government by meeting with a delegation of Faroese MPs in Edinburgh. We will continue to work hard to ensure the Scottish position is well represented in the autumn negotiations for a 2013 agreement.
Current Status: Answered by Richard Lochhead on 25/06/2012