SFO looking to the future

Welcome to the SFO’s new website – we hope you find it to be a useful resource. Check back regularly as we intend to keep it fresh with posts on, among other things, the latest industry developments, SFO member features and insightful imagery of our industry from years gone by. 

In many ways 2019 is shaping up to be a remarkable year for the SFO and wider Scottish fishing industry. We have undoubtedly enjoyed several good years in terms of stock abundance and financial performance, culminating in 2018 when SFO members collectively generated record-breaking revenues of £174 million, having landed 137,000 tonnes of top-quality fish and shellfish at home and abroad. 

This year, however, we are faced with an acutely challenging set of circumstances, with significant quota cuts for many of our key commercial target species such as mackerel, herring, haddock, cod and whiting, full implementation of the CFP Landings Obligation with accompanying choke risks, issues around fishery accreditation, and, of course, all the uncertainty that surrounds the UK’s impending departure from the EU.

From a business viewpoint, Brexit should bring considerable economic benefit to the Scottish fishing industry and wider economy, particularly in our coastal communities. We will automatically become a Coastal State and assume control of the fisheries resources within the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The UK fisheries administrations will have the power to control who can and cannot fish within our waters, unlike the current situation under the CFP where we are bound by the ‘common access’ principle and ‘relative stability’ mechanism. 

This will be a real game changer because our ability to control access to our EEZ is key to achieving fairer shares of our rich seafood resources – we only catch around 40% of the fish within our own waters while our neighbouring Coastal States Norway and Iceland catch 84% and 95% of the seafood resources within their own waters respectively. Instead of relying on sourcing around 30% of our fishing opportunities annually from out-with Scotland as is currently the case, we should aim to become self-sufficient and ultimately operate with a surplus. 

In terms of trade, a high proportion of our fishery products are exported to the EU and we want to see that trade continue in a manner that is as free and frictionless as possible. Unlike the current distribution of fishing opportunity within the EU, trade flows in seafood products between the UK and EU is already fairly evenly balanced.

But it’s not all about Brexit. Record levels of investment in the fleet, significant infrastructural improvements such as the new fish market in Peterhead, and the creation of well-defined pathways into the industry for young people all reflect the underlying strength of Scotland’s fishing industry and wider seafood sector. Our high-quality seafood is in demand the world over, and that demand is growing year on year. We can therefore move into the next decade with optimism and confidence that our industry will continue to grow and prosper within a newly established Coastal State.

John Anderson, Chief Executive

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