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Commercial Fishing



Why UK political parties must support the fishing sector. In this special report, Fish Focus examines why political parties across the spectrum should throw their support behind the fishing industry during the current General Election campaign.

With the UK General Election looming on 4 July, fishing constituencies around the country will be looking to see which political parties feature policies that will ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for the sector.

Political candidates would do well to examine the recently published ‘Industry Trends and Attitudes’ report compiled by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation as it provides a good flavour of the wider public perception of fishing – which is overwhelmingly positive despite the sustained attacks it frequently comes under from environmental NGOs.

The report’s introduction states:

“Perceptions about wild-caught seafood have become warped as a result of the misinformation and misunderstandings that have enveloped the increasingly shrill debate on this topic.”

The report continues:

“Government needs to resist the siren voices of the eNGOs, whose only stake in the industry is one they constantly seek to drive into its hearts, and get the message that fishing is part of the solution to the climate issue, not a problem to be managed.

“The Scottish Government has adopted a notably more conciliatory tone since it decided last summer, in the face of widespread opposition, to shelve it plans to ban fishing in up to 10% of Scottish waters (via a series of Highly Protected Marine Areas in addition to the existing Marine Protected Areas network which already covers 37% of our waters).

“But we now need to see policies that reflect this shift in tone – constructive, practical and co-designed with industry.”

In the polling for the report, two-thirds of respondents had a positive view of the sector, compared to one in 14 who had a negative opinion. The critical nature of food security for Scotland was underscored by the fact that almost all respondents indicated that it was important, including 72% who believed it was very important. Just 2% of respondent disagreed with the statement, “The natural resource of fish in our seas should be part of our national food security.”

Almost nine in 10 people would like to see Scotland’s fishing fleet protected in the face the spatial squeeze from offshore wind, and again just 2% of respondents disagreed with the idea.

The level of public support for the government to do more to support fishing is high, with almost 90 per cent of respondents in favour. Demand for this support was particularly noticeable in coastal and island communities, and less so in urban areas such as Glasgow where just 48% held this view.

The unequivocal message, it would seem, is that parties across the political spectrum need to throw their weight behind supporting the industry to reflect the opinions of the electorate. And, with an increasingly unstable and dangerous global geopolitical situation, the need to protect national food security is now more important than ever.