NAFC TO MAP DEMERSAL FISHING ACTIVITY FOR INDUSTRY PARTNERS IN SHETLAND
Following a request from the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), staff from the NAFC Marine Centre will be conducting face-to-face interviews with whitefish fishermen to ensure that their interests are effectively and efficiently communicated when new developments are planned around the islands. Until recently, consultation on development has been conducted on a case-by-case basis, but with these increasing as grounds available for fishing decrease, the Association is keen to have detailed data available about the distribution of demersal fishing, its economic value and how important this is to sustaining the islands communities.
SFA Chairman Leslie Tait commented: “We are receiving more and more requests for information about the distribution of fishing activity around Shetland from multiple sources and we are concerned that our members may at some stage become overburdened by such requests and then fail to be adequately represented. Although the Shetland Marine Spatial Plan is one of the best examples in the world, we are acutely aware that we need to keep data detailed and current. The NAFC Marine Centre’s involvement in this important venture will help us manage requests for data and maintain a strong hand in how it is used.”
Brian Isbister of the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation added: “This initiative comes at a time when we hope to engage with the new members of Shetland Islands Council to promote the importance of fishing to the economic and social sustainability of the islands and to understand better where it fits in their strategy for the future alongside things like marine renewables and marine protected areas. It is important that local representatives understand the role that fishing plays and that some become advocates in lobbying for its future. I sincerely hope that all members of the fishing community will see the value in this exercise, the success of which will be defined by the effort and cooperation that is given.”
The detailed mapping exercise will be undertaken by staff from the Department of Marine Science and Technology at the NAFC Marine Centre who already work closely with members of the fishing community. Head of Marine Science, Dr Martin Robinson, said: “The work is a natural extension of the marine spatial planning work that has been very much pioneered in Shetland when compared with elsewhere in the UK. We will hold detailed data for the fishing community in confidence and it will only be released to third parties when industry has agreed to how it can be best viewed to represent them. Industry will still ‘own’ the data, and we are really only acting as a custodian of it so that fishing interests can be protected in coastal waters where competition for space is increasing. It is really important to get a sense of the economic and social value of fishing to add context to simple stand-alone maps of fishing positions that do not adequately communicate the importance of fishing to Shetland.”
Dr Robinson added that the mapping initiative had been planned and agreed with representatives of the local whitefish sector only during the initial phase, but there was already some interest in expanding the activity to cover the other sectors relevant to the local economy.
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