Scotland’s fishing industry is getting cash from a new fund before its official launch in an attempt to avert a crisis.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said yesterday the money was being advanced by Marine Scotland to support a “critical” project to develop and trial innovative fishing gear before a phased ban on white-fish discarding kicks in from the start of 2016.
There are widespread concerns about how the ban – known as the landing obligation – will work in practice, not to mention the cost of disposing of unwanted catch that must be landed under the new rules.
Scottish Government agency has tapped into the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund before its official launch later this year in order to stump up £110,000 for a first phase of work to improve catch selectivity.
The aim is to produce nets which deliver more of the fish boats are targeting and less of the type that will end up dumped on the quayside.
SFF, Marine Scotland, Seafish, the Scottish Industry Discards Initiative, net-makers and fishermen have joined forces to sea-trial new net designs and share their results with the industry.
The first phase of the project runs until Christmas and it is anticipated that further work will be done from January to continue developing gears through to 2019.
SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “If selective fishing gear is to play a part in meeting the challenges of the upcoming discard ban, innovation and practical input from the users is simply a must.
“This project is designed to gather the best ideas and turn them into optimised nets – teamwork will be everything.”
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I commend the industry for their work on such an important issue and for working with the Scottish Government and scientists to develop improvements, including trials, in gear selectivity ahead of the implementation of the landing obligation in January 2016.
“This funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Scottish Government will help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing, create jobs and support coastal communities.”
The project will employ a manager, Jennifer Mouat, with whom fishers will be able to discuss any suggestions they have for improving gear selectivity.
A meeting is also to be held to bring together fishers and net-makers to explore further ideas.