Independent Inquiry into Crisis in Scottish Fishing Industry  to take Evidence in Shetland

Independent Inquiry into Crisis in Scottish Fishing Industry to take Evidence in Shetland

Members of the independent Committee set up by The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to examine the issues underlying the crisis in the Scottish Fishing Industry is to take evidence from a broad range of organisations connected with the industry in Shetland. Six members of the Committee will take evidence in private on Tuesday 30 September.

A Media Question & Answer Session will be held at The Shetland Seafood Centre on Tuesday 30th September 12.50-1.10 to which you are cordially invited. Still or TV pictures may be taken at this time.

The Independent RSE Committee’s Programme: Tuesday 30 September - the Shetland Seafood Centre

9.15 – 10.15     Shetland Ocean Alliance (Mr Alexander J Cluness)

10:15 - 11.15   Shetland Fishermen's Association/Shetland Fish Processor's Association (Mr Hansen Black/Mr Brian Isbister)

11:15 - 12.00   Shetland Fish Processor's Association (Miss Ruth Henderson)

12:00 - 12.45   Shetland Salmon Farmers' Association (Mr David Sandison)

12.45 - 2.00      The North Atlantic Fisheries College for lunch.

12.50 - 1.10      Media Question & Answer Session

Two members of the Committee will then visit the fish processing factory in Whalsay, the pier and boats, followed by a short tour of Whalsay, before meeting with the Shetland fishing SOS group.
The others in the group will remain at the North Atlantic Fisheries College and have meetings and visits there:

2.00 - 3.00     Mr John Goodlad (Buckland Fisheries Professor) and Mr Richard Slaski (Executive Director, The British Marine Finfish Association)

3.00 - 4.00     North Atlantic Fisheries College (Dr Lesley Ann McEvoy, Head of Marine Science & Technology)

4.00 - 5.00     Visit of the College

Notes for Editors:

The Inquiry

Instigated by the Council of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and Chaired by the distinguished Biologist, Sir David Smith, The RSE’s independent inquiry seeks to identify what steps might be taken to secure the future of the fishing industry in Scotland. The Inquiry’s principal objective is to make an assessment of the extent to which controls imposed on the Scottish fishing industry are scientifically robust. Scotland has the largest part of the United Kingdom’s sea fishing industry and many of Scotland’s more remote communities, especially around the North East coast and in Shetland, are heavily dependent on it for their livelihood. Concerns over declining fish stocks, especially of cod, have led to severe restrictions being imposed under the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and concerns exist over the long-term viability of the Scottish fishing industry. The Committee met for the first time on Tuesday 27 May 2003 at The Royal Society of Edinburgh 22-26 George Street Edinburgh and is expected to reach its conclusions by Christmas 2003, when its findings and recommendations will be made widely available.

The membership of the Committee, with expertise in marine biology, fish stocks, environmental issues, statistical modelling, social science, business and economics includes:

Sir David Smith FRS FRSE, (Chairman) former Principal and Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh University and former President of Wolfson College, Oxford

Professor Ian Boyd FRSE, Director of the NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St. Andrews

Professor Stephen Buckland, Professor of Statistics and Director of the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, University of St. Andrews

Mr Edward Cunningham CBE FRSE, Chairman, Business Options Ltd

Professor Gavin McCrone CB FRSE, Professor in Business Studies, University of Edinburgh

Dr Malcolm MacGarvin Environmental Consultant & Company Director

Professor Alasdair McIntyre CBE FRSE, Former Chief Scientific Officer, DAFS Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen

Professor Monty Priede FRSE, Professor of Zoology, University of Aberdeen

Professor Randolph Richards, Director of the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling

Mr David Symes
, formerly Fisheries Management & European Policy, University of Hull

The remit of the inquiry includes:

  • An assessment of the scientific approach and the level of scientific support underlying present and likely future controls imposed on the Scottish fishing industry, including: a comparison with other fishing nations; the impact of improvements in catching technology; and the effects of practices such as industrial fishing
  • A consideration of role of aquaculture in the industry, and especially in terms of its potential for replacing some of the reduction in the catch of fish such as cod
  • A critical examination of the socio-economic impact of the declining fish catches and of the controls on the industry on the Scottish communities affected (including relevant sectors of the fish processing industry) with particular reference to the likely effects of the control measures now being implemented
  • The formation of recommendations on how a viable sea fishing industry can best be maintained in Scotland.

The Committee has welcomed written evidence from informed organisations and individuals on the following questions:

  1. What should be the objectives of fisheries management in Scotland? What mechanisms need to be put in place to achieve those objectives?
  2. How satisfactory is the science and scientific advisory structures, underlying the present controls of Scottish fisheries through the CFP and/or domestic fishing policy? Is the scientific information sufficiently robust to allow sound and effective conservation measures to be built upon them?
  3. How have improvements in fish catching technology affected Scottish fisheries?
  4. In its roadmap for the reform of the CFP, the Commission of the European Communities states that one of its aims is to move towards an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management. What will this involve, and how will the scientific approach to this be developed?
  5. What additional or alternative measures should be put in place to assist the recovery of whitefish stocks and thereafter to maintain a viable and sustainable fishery?
  6. What is the role of aquaculture, in terms of cod in particular, in reducing pressure on white fish stocks?
  7. How are the Scottish fishing and fish processing industries adapting to the reduction in fishing opportunities for staple whitefish species?
  8. What actions should be taken to ensure the sustainability of fisheries not presently regulated under the CFP?
  9. What particular economic and social effects have the recent declines in whitefish catches had on Scottish coastal communities? How are they likely to be affected by current measures to regulate the fisheries? What actions can national and local authorities in Scotland take to offset the effects of declining fishing opportunities on fishing dependent regions and fishing communities?
  10. What lessons can be learned from the management practices and scientific support systems in other fishing nations?


The Chair and Members of the RSE’s independent Committee are giving their time to the work of the Inquiry voluntarily, without any charge. The RSE acknowledges financial donations towards the Inquiry from:

  • Aberdeen City Council
  • Aberdeenshire Council
  • J Sainsbury plc
  • Scottish Enterprise Grampian
  • Shetland Island Council
  • The Clydesdale Bank

Other Independent RSE Inquiries

Other recent independent Inquiries undertaken by the RSE include:

Inquiry into Foot & Mouth Disease in Scotland - July 2002
The Scientific Issues Surrounding the Control of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) in Scotland – June 2002
Encouraging Resolution: Mediating Patient/Health Service Disputes in Scotland – June 2002.


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