AN OVERWHELMING majority of those living in Dumfries and Galloway believe fishing fleets should be safeguarded as seas become more crowded with the emergence of offshore wind and renewables, according to a new survey.
A poll of 1000 adults by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) underscores strong public support for protecting the industry as it faces pressures from new marine users.
With nine in 10 in Dumfries and Galloway believing fleets should be protected among crowded seas due to offshore wind and renewables, 63% have an overall positive view of the sector, up slightly on the 62% Scottish average.
More broadly, just one in 50 Scots disagree that the Scottish Government should do more to support the country’s fishing fleets.
The findings were released after the SFF’s 50th anniversary dinner, where Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive, told 100 guests that fishing deserved recognition for its low environmental impact.
Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive of the SFF, said: “This survey proves conclusively that the people of Scotland firmly believe fishing should continue to be a priority as we balance the needs of different 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.”
The research, compiled on behalf of the association by Opinion Matters, shows a level of support for the sector that is not always reflected in the public sphere.
It follows the scrapping of the Scottish Government’s highly controversial Highly protected marine areas policy that would have led to a further loss of 10% of Scotland’s fishing grounds and led to outcry from communities throughout Scotland.
Reflecting that, the poll showed 19 in 20 Scots recognise fishing is vital for coastal communities.
A further 94.2% believe the industry is important to Scotland’s economy. Additionally, 90.4% think Scottish fish should support our nation’s food security and 89.0% believe the government should do more to support fishing.
The figures also presented future hope – and a sector that is clearly valued and respected by young adults, with 65% of respondents aged 16-24 likely to have an overall positive opinion on the Scottish fishing sector, compared to 60% between 45-54.
These strong beliefs apply across all of Scotland, with a spread of respondents across all local authorities, as well as age groups and social demographics. The poll of 1000 people was carried out on 23 to 25 October.
Macdonald added: “This survey leaves no doubt that the public stands firmly behind Scotland’s fishing industry. 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.
“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 SFF was established in 1973 to represent a sustainable, prosperous fishing industry in Scotland. It was borne 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 which represent the sector from small creel boats to major pelagic and white fish trawlers.
The full findings will be published in the coming weeks, as part of the federation’s upcoming “Industry Trends and Attitudes” report.
For more information on the organisation, please visit the new SFF website: https://www.sff.co.uk/