Scottish fishermen could emulate the Norwegians by securing twice as big a share of the catch in UK waters after Brexit, a Scottish Conservative MSP has said.
Shadow Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Peter Chapman MSP pointed out that Scottish boats only account for about 40% of the catch in the Scottish part of the UK exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but boats in Norway take an 85% share of the catch in their waters.
Speaking during a meeting of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee at Holyrood, Mr Chapman said that once the UK leaves the EU and gains control over the EEZ out to 200 nautical miles, the real “sea of opportunity” for the sector will open up.
A study by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ NAFC Marine Centre discovered that boats from other EU countries on average caught 58% of the fish and shellfish landed from UK waters between 2012 and 2014.
Mr Chapman challenged Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing to back the Scottish fishing industry and work to address the “huge discrepancy” in catch for local boats.
In response, Mr Ewing said the situation was “complex” and warned against overfishing of UK waters.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Chapman, a north-east region MSP, said: “At the moment, there is a huge discrepancy between the share of the catch for Scottish boats in our own waters and the percentage enjoyed by the Norwegian fleet in their part of the North Sea.
“The difference is that we are still in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) while Norway is an independent coastal state. The same is true of Iceland, where I understand local boats have a 90% share of the catch in their own waters.
“The figures speak for themselves, and it is clear there is a huge sea of opportunity for our fishermen post-Brexit.
“Nobody is saying that boats from other countries won’t be able to fish in our waters, but the crucial element is that we will control how much they can fish.
“I think any suggestion of over-fishing, or that our stocks will be decimated is insulting to the intelligence of Scottish fishermen, who have worked hard to ensure we have sustainable stocks in the North Sea.
“It is time that the SNP recognised the huge opportunity that exists to revitalise our coastal communities. The government should be planning now to ensure that we support the sector, both offshore and onshore in terms of infrastructure for landing and processing here in the north-east.”