The date today is 09-02-09

Meeting with Mr Lochhead

SSACN- Meeting with Cabinet Secretary Lochhead and the MD

SSACN held their first ever meeting with the man at the top - Cabinet Secretary Lochhead - on Thursday. It has taken 4 years to get to this point but our general feeling following the meeting was very positive, in attendance were :

Cabinet Secretary Lochhead
SSACN - Steve Bastiman - Denis Kelly - Ian Burrett
Marine Directorate - Rob Roberts – Paul McCarthy – Ian Thomson
Tourism - John Brown

The government have received the results of the economic study for the value of Scottish RSA but they need to be ratified before being made public but apparently they show our initial desktop study which put RSA spend at £150m was reasonably accurate.

Steve opened our presentation by giving a potted history of the rise and fall of Scottish sea angling with a special mention of the days when the Clyde regularly hosted Scottish, European and even NFSA Championships because of the fantastic cod fishing. Steve then went onto to talk about the socio economic benefits and  RSA communities and Ian followed up with a presentation outlining the need to regenerate stocks, revitalise sea angling, best value management and outlined our aspirations for angling regeneration centres (ARCS).

Our impression was that Mr Lochhead was very attentive and keen to learn. He is proud of the Scotland’s developing record for constructive conservation initiatives on the commercial species and would rather use the carrot than the stick to get his ideas through. He told us quite candidly that he wasn’t going to close areas off for recreational use unless any scheme had the backing of councils, coastal forums, and local stakeholders; and to be fair he has a valid point - it was exactly the same point we made at the end of our presentation.!

After our presentation we discussed the problems of data availability. There are thousands of scientific surveys on the net about cod, haddock and whiting but no research has been carried out on the inshore stocks reachable by shore anglers; he endorsed the efforts we are making to address that and asked his civil servants from the Marine Directorate to work with us to explore additional opportunities.

We also asked a series of questions for clarification and the MD will get back to us and organise a meeting to discuss the implications sometime in the New Year. After the meeting we will be asking for feedback from as many of you as possible.

The meeting closed with quick summaries all round and we believe a common understanding that sea angling is ‘on the radar’ and although there are many issues to be addressed, we have begun the process.

Our presentation may be downloaded from here and go to the following for backup materials relating to ARCs , Best Value and planned development.

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Following on from the main meeting we had some brief discussions with the guys from the Marine Directorate to discuss some of the more immediate issues.
Denis found that the MD with Defra are backing all the EU shark, skate and ray proposals for this months CFP talks with a possible exception to the spurdog proposal. If successful this will mean by next week :

  • Rays - 25% reduction in TAC on rays and introduction of a 25% bycatch limit on rays on the west coast. This already applies in the North Sea.
  • Porbeagle - Zero TAC on Porbeagle – The French are refusing to comply so not likely to go through but there may be a bycatch limit and certainly will be TAC reduction.
  • Skate - All common and white skate, angel shark and undulate ray have to be returned. No apparent opposition to this so it is likely the common skate will finally be protected.
  • Spurdog - Defra are supporting the spurdog zero TAC but we believe the MD’s position is to retain the 5% with an added maximum landing limit (MLL) of 1 metre. This means all the big females will have to be returned dead or alive. The 2008  5 % bycatch limit has certainly had some effect although there is a few weeks to go. The TAC will reduce from 1200 tones to 900 tons and Scotland will have a 50% share (FQA) of this.

Meanwhile Ian and Steve had a brief discussion with Rob Roberts regarding the impending Article 47 EU proposals, further details here and on the Government’s  web site here . These appear to have the potential to adversely impact RSA, but neither Defra nor the MD know anything more than what’s on the proposals.

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Robin Harper (MSP) meeting
After the main meeting we took the opportunity to meet with Robin Harper MSP of the Green Party to give him a shorter version of the presentation we gave to Mr Lochhead, answer some queries he had and we also discussed ways in which he could help support our objectives.
End - of a long, tiring and fruitful day !!!!

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The Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network
62 Lounsdale Drive
Paisley
Renfrewshire PA2 9ED
A Charity registered in Scotland Reg No: SC039015