Carmichael highlights scientific advice reform and spatial squeeze in fisheries debate

14 Oct 2022

Speaking in Parliament Mr Carmichael said:

“In the medium to long term, some of which I will deal with today, the industry is increasingly concerned about a number of different threats, some of which will, if they are not addressed now, be existential for the industry or parts of it. I am thinking in particular of the pressures of spatial squeeze, with other industries having grown over the years. We have seen the coming of oil and gas industry pipelines, electricity cables, fibre-optic cables and now the growth of offshore renewables, such as electricity generation. If nobody acts now and we do not find a proper strategic approach to this issue, all of those things will squeeze fishing to the margins. I will give fair notice to the House that I intend to keep coming back to this subject.

“The subject of scientific advice has long been of concern to the industry. For a number of years, the SFF, NFFO and the Scottish White Fish Producers Association have been calling for another body to sense-check the International Council of the Exploration of the Sea data and the conclusions drawn from it. ICES is the gold standard and we are not seeking anything that would undermine that, but, given its academic rigour, the ICES process is lengthy and the decisions informed by it are sometimes made two years after the data has been gathered.

“The Minister’s predecessor set up the UK fisheries science advisory board, which brought together the chief scientists from the devolved Administrations and the UK Government. What is the status is of that board? Is it still functioning and what scope is there to continue to build on its work?

“The Minister has a number of substantial tasks on his plate between now and the end of the year. The EU-UK-Norway talks have taken the place that arguably they always did had, rather than the December Fisheries Council, which we all tended to obsess about. Those talks are the focus of what will be on his agenda.

“If the Minister goes away with no other message from today’s debate, I ask him to take this away: his chances of getting the best possible deal for our fishing industry will always be increased the more he talks to and listens to the industry itself. I do not know how many Fisheries Ministers I have seen come and go over the years, but the difference between a good one and a bad one has always been their willingness to engage with the industry. There is good will and there is a wealth of expertise there, but it has to be asked for.”