Member for the Highlands and Islands Sir Jamie McGrigor made an excellent speech. He bemoaned the impact of fuel prices and discards on the industry:
"I am grateful for the chance to speak once again in a fisheries debate. However, rather than speak about fish, I wish to speak about the people who fish for them and the people on the mainland whose jobs depend on the industry: we should never forget that for every job at sea there are four on land. Fishing is one of Scotland’s most important primary industries, so it is absurd that the Scottish fishing fleet, which has done more for conservation measures than any other fleet in Europe, has continually to bear more pain than any other fleet in the EU.
I am well aware of the impact that the meteoric rise in fuel prices—which doubled between 2007 and 2008 from 30p to 60p a litre for marine diesel—had on the fishing industry, particularly on smaller vessels, many of which simply had to stop fishing. Fuel prices have since reduced, but we must ensure that our Government is better prepared should that happen again, especially as fishermen from other member states received direct help with their fuel costs through de minimis aid payments, which also put our fishing people at a competitive disadvantage.
Others have mentioned the appalling waste and the damage to the marine environment that are caused by discards. Can anyone member justify throwing dead fish back into the sea? It makes a mockery of the CFP."
Dr Nanette Milne, Shadow Minister for Environment and MSP for North East Scotland, indicated some optimism but also added a note of caution:
"We are happy to commend the work that has been done on sustainable fishing. We particularly praise the leadership that Scotland’s fishermen have shown over the past year, following the acceptance last November by the European Commission of a different approach to the management of species such as cod, founded on mortality-based targets rather than biomass-based targets.
It is good news that the conservation credits scheme, which was piloted by Scottish fishermen, has been such a success that the Commission is set to roll out a similar approach EU-wide next year. We were also very pleased to hear this morning about the co-operation on marine planning between all the UK Administrations, which will be welcomed by all who depend on our seas for their livelihoods.
As I indicated earlier, we share the general dismay at the draconian proposals for the virtual closure of west coast fisheries, which have been made without consultation with the industry and are quite unacceptable. It is shocking, as John Scott said, that a proposed closure of such magnitude should come out of the blue, catching both fishermen and Government unawares. In an area such as the west coast, where white-fish stocks are known to be low, surely there are ways to allow for the catching of nephrops while minimising the bycatch of species such as haddock, whiting and cod."
Tom Greeves writes:
Some people write off the importance of the fishing industry on the grounds that it doesn’t employ that many people. Conservatives must always reject such a myopic approach.
And we should seize control of our waters!