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A Good Food Nation: For Our Seas

Nourish Scotland is crowdfunding for our #GoodFoodNation campaign. This week we’ve been publishing a blog every day to tell you more about this campaign and why we think it is so important. This is the second to last blog before the crowdfunder closes tomorrow at midnight. Today: what the Good Good Nation Bill can do for our seas!

 

Sea – Scotland has a lot of it, and our inshore waters, which lie within 12 nautical miles of the 11,800km coastline, have long been an important source of food.

At the moment though, fish makes up only 1.9% of the Scottish diet (which is less than biscuits at 2%!) and we end up eating only 6 species most of the time – cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns – which are often caught in other countries’ seas. Some market oddities are going on here too: even though we export more than 113,500 tonnes of salmon every year, the salmon that ends up on our plates is often imported from elsewhere.

Scotland’s own coastal fisheries are heavily focused on shellfish for European markets – mostly scallops and prawns.  Although both species can be caught in different ways, most scallops in Scotland’s seas are caught by dredgers and most prawns with bottom trawlers. Both these industries are top of the list in terms of the UK’s most damaging marine fisheries.

Dredgers have an extreme impact on the seabed and the species that live there: Imagine a rake weighing over 2 tonnes being dragged over the seabed, with teeth penetrating up to 10 cm deep. Prawn trawls in turn are big nets weighted to fall on the seabed and then towed along, again causing much disruption as well as unwanted by-catch. These blunt technologies have changed surprisingly little over the past centuries -perhaps it’s been a case of out of sight, out of mind. There are however sustainable alternatives such as creeling and all around we need to get much better at protecting our sensitive marine habitats. (Our colleagues at Open Seas are doing a lot of great campaigning on this front).

‘Wild fisheries’ aside –salmon farming in Scotland doesn’t offer us much to be proud about either: sea lice infestations impacting wild fish, pollution from farm effluent, the application of pesticides and antibiotics straight into the sea – the list goes on. It also raises questions as to how much of these chemicals are retained in the food chain. Despite all this, a recent industry strategy set out the ambition to double the production of farmed fish in Scotland by 2030.

Fishing trawler

As part of the Good Food Nation Bill process we have an opportunity to ask: How in a Good Food Nation can we look after our sea and our seafood better? And how can we make sure both our marine environments and coastal communities thrive?

This is timely: with Brexit looming, we will be leaving the current system of management, the EU Common Fisheries Policy, and with that comes opportunities to do something better, taking the CFP’s good bits and strengthening its weak bits with regards to fisheries in Scotland

Consultation on the Good Food Nation Bill is expected to start in 2018. With your support we can do much more work next year to amplify the voices of those who are not often heard on decision-making platforms, including coastal communities and small-scale sustainable fisherfolk. Help us work together to ensure Scotland’s seas thrive for those who rely on them for their livelihoods and produce seafood we can all be proud of.

 

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