Nine out of ten Scots support the protection of fishing fleets and an overwhelming majority believe they should be safeguarded as the seas become more crowded with the emergence of offshore wind and renewables, a new Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) survey shows. "This survey leaves no doubt that the public stands firmly behind Scotland's fishing industry," said Elspeth Macdonald, SFF's CEO.
She did so in front of 100 guests at the organization's 50th-anniversary dinner at Edinburgh Castle, where a preview of the survey was presented, and in front of whom she also argued that the fishery deserved recognition for its low environmental impact.
Compiled by Opinion Matters on behalf of the Federation, the survey shows a level of support for the sector that, according to the SFF, is not always reflected in the public sphere. The results display that 19 out of 20 Scots recognize that fishing is vital to coastal communities and a further 94.2% believe the industry is important to Scotland's economy. Moreover, 90.4% believe that Scottish fish should contribute to the nation's food security, and 89.0% believe that the government should do more to support fishing.
The findings come on the heels of the shelving of the Scottish Government's controversial Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) policy that would have led to an additional 10% loss of Scotland's fishing grounds and provoked an outcry not only from coastal communities but from the entire seafood industry. All of Scotland's fishermen, salmon farmers, and processors joined together in what they called the 'Seafood Coalition' to call on the government to abandon its HPMA policy.
According to Elspeth Macdonald, the survey demonstrates conclusively that the people of Scotland strongly believe that fishing should remain a priority while balancing the needs of the various marine industries. "With our seas becoming busier spaces, we call on the Scottish government to put the needs of our fishing sector at the heart of marine policy. Many of our coastal communities depend on fishing," she said.
As mentioned, the survey results were presented during the Scottish Fishermen's Federation 50th anniversary dinner, where, according to local news website The P&J, its CEO, Elspeth Macdonald, called for the fishing industry not to be demonized. "We don’t deserve the picture that some often paint of us, and Scotland’s fishermen must not be demonised for going about their legitimate business of putting healthy, low emission food on people’s plates," she said.
Although the full findings will be published in the coming weeks, the survey, conducted from October 23-25 among 1,000 people, shows that the sector is valued and respected by young adults: 65% of respondents aged 16-24 are likely to have an overall positive view of the Scottish fishing industry, compared with 60% aged 45-54. The SFF believes this represents hope for the future.
"With so many challenges ahead, from the changing climate to the cost of living crisis, these results give us confidence that people in Scotland recognise fishing must be part of our nation's future," stated Macdonald. "As an industry there are always things that we can do better. But there is a lot for us to be loud and proud about in terms of producing quality, low-carbon and sustainable protein. The public recognises this and has made it clear that it wants fishing protected amid crowded seas. There is an understanding that losing our fleets would be a tragedy that leaves Scotland vulnerable and communities devastated."
The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) was established in 1973 to represent a sustainable, prosperous fishing industry in Scotland, in response to the first oil shock which saw the proliferation of work in the historic fishing grounds of the North Sea. Fighting for the interests of 450 fishing vessels in Scotland’s fleet, the SFF is made up of eight groups that represent the sector from small creel boats to major pelagic and white fish trawlers.