Independent Inquiry to Investigate Crisis in Scottish Fishing Industry

Independent Inquiry to Investigate Crisis in Scottish Fishing Industry

An independent committee is being set up by The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to examine the issues underlying the crisis in the Scottish Fishing Industry. The Inquiry’s principal objective will be 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. Instigated by the Council of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and Chaired by the distinguished Biologist, Sir David Smith, The RSE’s independent inquiry will seek to identify what steps might be taken to secure the future of the fishing industry in Scotland. The Committee will meet for the first time on Tuesday 27 May 2003 at The Royal Society of Edinburgh 22-26 George Street Edinburgh. The expert Committee is expected to reach its conclusions by Christmas 2003, and its findings and recommendations will be made widely available.

RSE President, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood said:
The Fishing Industry is at the heart of many of Scotland’s communities: a way of life and central to livelihoods and local economies. The crisis facing the industry today has prompted the Council of The Royal Society of Edinburgh to mount a broadly-based, independent inquiry which will seek to identify what measures might be taken to secure the industry for future generations in Scotland. Under Sir David Smith’s Chairmanship, the independent, expert committee will consult widely and examine the science underlying the controls imposed upon the Scottish Fishing Industry. It is my hope that our recommendations will help to develop sound strategies for the future.

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

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 will include:

  • 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 and sustainable sea fishing industry can best be developed and maintained in Scotland.

The Committee would welcome written evidence from informed organisations and individuals on those of the following questions about which they feel able to comment:

  • What should be the objectives of fisheries management in Scotland? What mechanisms need to be put in place to achieve those objectives?
  • 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?
  • How have improvements in fish catching technology affected Scottish fisheries?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • What is the role of aquaculture, in terms of cod in particular, in reducing pressure on white fish stocks?
  • How are the Scottish fishing and fish processing industries adapting to the reduction in fishing opportunities for staple whitefish species?
  • What actions should be taken to ensure the sustainability of fisheries not presently regulated under the CFP?
  • 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?
  • What lessons can be learned from the management practices and scientific support systems in other fishing nations?

Written submissions should be provided by 27 June 2003 addressed to:

Dr Marc Rands,
Secretary to the RSE Scottish Fisheries Inquiry
The Royal Society of Edinburgh
22-26 George Street
Views may alternatively be submitted by email to:

Media Contact:
Stuart Brown, Public Relations Officer, The Royal Society of Edinburgh
tel. +44 (0)131 240 5000; mob. 077 11 710 249; fax: +44 (0)131 240 5024

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22 - 26 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ

Notes for Editors:

Sir David Smith
Professor Sir David Smith, FRS, FRSE is a distinguished biologist and a former Principal and Vice Chancellor of The University of Edinburgh (1986 – 1992). A former Biological Secretary of The Royal Society of London, David Smith is an international authority on the biology of symbiosis. He has served on many Research Council and other national and international committees. His academic and administrative distinctions were recognised in 1986 by the award of Knighthood.

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 Society is actively seeking funding from individuals, private and charitable bodies to cover the cost of administration and travel expenses. The RSE acknowledges financial support from:

  • The Clydesdale Bank
  • Sainsbury's

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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