Yesterday in Parliament I quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment during Topical Questions on mackerel certifications.
The topical question was raised by Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands Jamie McGrigor following the breakdown of negotiations on the mackerel dispute with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
The breakdown was extremely disappointing for both Scottish fishermen and the communities that rely on the industry. The dispute has been ongoing for far too long and all attempts at talks have failed to provide an adequate solution.
I asked the Cabinet Secretary if he had any discussions with the Marine Conservation Society, who produce a classification of ‘fish to eat’ based on their sustainability. Currently British, European and Norwegian mackerel is yellow on that list, while Icelandic and Faroese mackerel is listed as red. It is important that the lack of resolution does not lead to any threats to the current certification of Scottish mackerel.
Iceland and the Faroese must understand that their actions are seriously threatening the sustainability of the fishing stock in the North Sea. It is imperative that we do all we can to ensure stocks stay healthy.
The lack of agreement last week may also have a knock-on impact on further fishing talks as the industry looks to manage remaining quotas and opportunities and our fishermen currently face an uncertain future that will only grow unless a resolution is reached soon.
A copy of the question and answer can be found below:
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): I share members’ disappointment at the lack of progress in the mackerel negotiations. I wish the cabinet secretary well in the negotiations that start tomorrow. Has he had any discussions with the Marine Conservation Society, which currently classes British, European and Norwegian mackerel yellow while Icelandic and Faroese mackerel is listed as red, over whether the lack of a resolution to the situation poses any threats to the current certification of Scottish mackerel?
Richard Lochhead: I assure Claire Baker that, in the past, I have been in touch several times with the Marine Conservation Society over the classification of the mackerel stock that is caught by Scottish vessels. I do not think that we should be tarred with the same brush as other fisheries, given that our fishermen are helping the stock to recover and are fishing within agreed management regimes.
If there has been any change to the Marine Conservation Society’s classification in the past few days, I will be happy to learn about that and intervene again, but I will certainly keep a close eye on its classification of the Scottish mackerel stock.