The date today is 09-02-09

Parliamentary Questions

This page shows Scottish Parliamentary Questions and Motions (unless indicated otherwise) of interest to sea anglers.

Parliamentary Questions can be asked by any MSP to the Scottish Government/Executive or the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and are intended to provide a means for MSPs to obtain factual and statistical information from the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.

Motions are used by MSPs as a device to initiate debate or propose a course of action, other MSPs can sign up in support of motions that have been lodged; those which receive cross-party support may be selected for debate in the Chamber.A full list may be found here.

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S3W-7829 - John Scott (Ayr) (Con) (Date Lodged 13 December 2020) : To ask the Scottish Executive how many permits it has issued in each of the last five years to allow the finning of sharks in Scottish waters.
Answered by Richard Lochhead (21 December 2020): Issue of permits to allow the removal of shark fins on board vessels in Community waters and for all Community vessels around the world, commenced in 2004.

Since then permits have been issued, as follows, to Scottish registered fishing vessels which are part of the Anglo-Spanish fleet:- 2004: 7   2005: 8   2006: 7   2007: 7.

S3M-01096 John Scott (Ayr) (Con): That the Parliament notes the economic and social importance of recreational sea angling to communities along the west coast and across Scotland; further notes that around 225,000 people participate in the sport annually with an average spend of £1,375 for boat anglers and £861 for shore anglers; recognises that most species of interest to sea anglers have limited commercial value and are returned alive to the sea, representing an excellent financial return for “Scotland plc”; affirms the extremely low environmental cost of recreational sea angling which is at the forefront of sustainable fishing and especially welcomes the Give Fish a Chance initiative from the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network, encouraging anglers to keep only those fish which have reached breeding size; regrets the substantial decline of the sport and supporting industries, notably on the Firth of Clyde, due to a loss of stocks with a number of species becoming extinct locally or reduced to the point where only juvenile specimens are now being caught; notes with concern the critically endangered status of key species, such as common skate, porbeagle and spurdog, which bring sea anglers to Scotland, and considers that work between the Government, sea angling bodies and other relevant agencies should continue to ensure the conservation of key species and the continued growth of sea angling in Scotland.

Supported by: John Lamont, Jamie McGrigor, Bill Kidd, Murdo Fraser, Kenneth Gibson, Mike Pringle, Mike Rumbles, Bill Aitken, Cathy Jamieson, Margaret Mitchell, Rob Gibson, Mary Scanlon, Jim Hume, Alex Neil, Gil Paterson, Elizabeth Smith, Patrick Harvie, Bob Doris, Robin Harper, Jamie Hepburn, Nanette Milne, Stuart McMillan, Dr Bill Wilson, Ted Brocklebank, Ms Wendy Alexander, Nigel Don, Dave Thompson, Hugh Henry, Ross Finnie, Hugh O’Donnell, Paul Martin, Dr Elaine Murray, Robert Brown, Peter Peacock, Sarah Boyack, Aileen Campbell, Jackson Carlaw

S3W-07622 John Scott (Ayr) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive how many real time voluntary closures of fisheries have been initiated since the inception of the scheme; how long each closure was in place; how many times any commercial impact zone has had two or more closures, and what quantities of fish were discarded before any such closures were implemented.

Mr Michael Russell:

A pilot Real Time Closures scheme was introduced in Scotland on 1 September 2007. 54 samples have been taken and to date there have been no closures as the level of juvenile cod on any monitored voyages has not reached the trigger point, though examples of behavioural change on the part of fishermen avoiding small cod have been noted. The trigger point was originally set at 60 juveniles per hour’s fishing effort and was subsequently reduced on 8 November 2020 to 50 juveniles per hour’s fishing effort. So far the scheme is voluntary and there is no obligation on vessels to report quantities of fish discarded prior to landing. We expect to expand the scheme in 2008.

Jan 08 S3W-07623 John Scott (Ayr) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what quantities of fish have been discarded annually since 2003 by the small mesh nephrops trawl fishery in the Clyde area and of what species the bulk of these discards were composed.

Mr Richard Lochhead: The Scottish Government is not in a position to quantify with any certainty the overall amount of fish discarded annually in the Clyde by the small mesh Nephrops fishery. Discarded fish include small and unwanted commercial species, but also species which have no commercial value which are also taken by fishing gears.

Fisheries Research Services (FRS) runs an observer programme which is directed at estimating the discarded component of the main commercial species. That observer programme suggests that quantities of landings and discards of cod made by smaller meshed vessels are small in Area VIa particularly in the Clyde. The Clyde Cod closure which has run from 14 January to 30 April in the first quarter of the year is considered to be effective in protecting cod at a time when they are aggregating to spawn. The observer programme also suggests that landings of haddock and whiting in the Clyde are also small, but discards of haddock and whiting are markedly higher than discards of cod and may be of the order of several hundred tonnes per year. The Scottish Government intends to work with the fishing industry and others to implement measures, in particular under the Conservation Credits scheme, to reduce such discards.

Jan 08 S3W-07824 John Scott (Ayr) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive when it intends to (a) commission and (b) publish the results of a survey into the economic value of recreational sea angling.

Mr Richard Lochhead:

The Scottish Government issued a contract to Glasgow Caledonian University on 16 November 2020 to undertake a Study into the Economic Impact of Recreational Sea Angling in Scotland. We expect the Study to report later this year.

Jan08 S3W-07827 John Scott (Ayr) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it considers that there is any merit in designating certain critically endangered species of sea fish as recreational species.

Mr Richard Lochhead:

The Scottish Government believes that there is a need to reduce the complexity of fisheries management and that there is little merit in introducing additional management categories at this stage.

Jul 08 S3W-14412 Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive how many jobs it considers recreational sea angling does and could support.

Mr Jim Mather :

The information requested is not available. The Scottish Government has commissioned Glasgow Caledonian University to undertake a study to look at the economic impact of sea angling. The Study’s Steering Group includes recreational sea angling representatives, VisitScotland, tourism and fisheries officials. The study is due to report at the end of 2008.

Jul 08 S3W-14411 Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what economic value it estimates recreational sea angling is worth to the Scottish economy.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

I refer the member to the question S3W-07825 answered on 18 January 2008. All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament’s website, the search facility for which can be found at

Jul 08 S3W-14408 Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to ensure that Scotland achieves best economic value from the common shared resource of species of fish of no commercial value to the catching sector.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

The Scottish Government aims to ensure that all fish stocks in Scottish waters, whether these have a commercial value or not and no matter where they are located, are managed sustainably for the long term maintenance of our marine environment and the communities and industries it supports.

Jul 08 S3W-14409 Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what specific measures it is taking to protect inshore species of value in recreational sea angling from being totally depleted through commercial fishing policies and practices.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

The Scottish Government aims to ensure that all the sea fisheries management measures that it takes within Scottish waters should promote the long term sustainability of all stocks, whether inshore or offshore, and the marine environment as well as the communities and industries that these support.

Jul 08 S3W-14410 Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what value it places on recreational sea angling.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

The Scottish Government recognises that recreational sea angling can offer valuable opportunities for people to access and enjoy the marine environment, develop a range of practical skills, derive pleasure from their participation in an exciting and sometimes competitive sport and enjoy the eating of those fish “caught for the pot”. Recreational sea angling is a niche tourism market that can contribute to the economies of coastal communities, for example via bed and breakfasts or from hire of charter boats. However, there is currently very little objective or detailed data on the scale and economic impact of recreational sea angling in Scotland. To address this, the Scottish Government has commissioned Glasgow Caledonian University to undertake a study to look at these things. The study is ongoing, progressing well and scheduled to report in November this year.

Oct 08 S3M-2687 Elaine Murray MSP: Save Scottish Sharks—That the Parliament notes that 11 to 19 October 2020 is European Shark Week; is concerned at the dramatic decline in European shark numbers; is further concerned that most Scottish shark species are classed as critically endangered but that none is currently afforded any protection; regrets the Scottish Government’s refusal to offer the tope the same protection as it has in England, resulting in the landing of tope being legal on the Scottish side of the Solway but not on the English side; looks forward to the publication of the Scottish Government Marine Directorate’s policy on sharks, and considers that action to protect these endangered species is urgently required.

Supported by: Ken Macintosh*, Kenneth Gibson*, Robin Harper*, Trish Godman*, David Stewart*, Hugh Henry*, Paul Martin*, Joe FitzPatrick*, Mike Pringle*, Marlyn Glen*, Karen Gillon*, Mary Mulligan*

Sep 08 S3W-16072 Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive how it is monitoring tope stocks in the Solway Firth.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

The Scottish Government receives advice on the state of fish stocks from a variety of sources including the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), Fisheries Research Services (FRS), landings data and real time information from the fishing industry and the sea angling community.

Sep 08 S3W-16074 Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive at what level it considers tope stock would become at risk in the Solway Firth.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

Generally the Scottish Government receives advice on the state of fish stocks from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and would consider stocks to be at risk when ICES advises so. ICES currently provides no advice on tope stocks.

The Scottish Government does not believe the 12 tonnes landed by Scottish boats since 2000 represents a significant threat to the health of the tope stock. This situation will be kept under review and will be consider within the wider context of the management of all elasmobranch stocks.

Jun 08 Gordon Prentice (Lab) : To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which species fished by UK vessels have fallen below sustainable fishing levels; and in which year fish stocks were first threatened in each case.

Jonathan Shaw :

Since 1998, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has applied precautionary reference points as the basis for its advice, identifying which harvesting rates meet precautionary criteria.

These criteria aim to ensure sustainability by keeping spawning stock biomass (SSB, the weight of mature fish) above a minimum precautionary level, Bpa (set high enough to allow a margin of error sufficient to keep SSB above a lower limit level, Blim), and keeping the fishing rate (F) below a maximum precautionary level, Fpa (set low enough to allow a margin of error sufficient to keep F below an upper limit level, Flim).

Based on advice from ICES in 2007, which evaluated stock assessments using fisheries data for years up to and including 2006, and survey data up to and including 2007, the following stocks fished by the UK have experienced unsustainable fishing levels when compared to the maximum precautionary level:

(i) North Sea - Herring since 2006

(ii) West of Scotland - Haddock since 2006

(iii) Irish Sea - Cod since the introduction of precautionary reference points in 1998, sole since 2006

(iv) Western Channel - Both plaice and sole since the introduction of precautionary reference points in 1998

(v) Widely distributed - North-east Atlantic mackerel since 2001, blue whiting since 1999

For a number of stocks it has not been possible to make a quantitative comparison because the level of F was uncertain in 2007.

This includes some stocks which have shown a long-term decline such as cod in the west of Scotland.

Nov 10 S3W-17343 John Scott (Ayr) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it considers that there should be a zero-catch quota for elasmobranchs, in light of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice on such types of fish.

Mr Richard Lochhead : The Scottish Government agrees with the ICES advice that there should be no directed fisheries on these species. However, a 0 total allowable catch (TAC) in a mixed fishery in which elasmobranches are an unavoidable bycatch will inevitably lead to discards. Therefore the Scottish Government supports the development of measures which will prevent the targeted fishing of these stocks from occurring whilst allowing small unavoidable bycatches to be landed.

Sept 08 S3W-16073 Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive in what circumstances it would make a Scottish statutory instrument to prohibit the catching of tope by commercial fishermen in the Solway Firth.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

The introduction of an SSI is a significant step and one that could only be taken where we believe that a failure to act would represent a real and present danger to the tope stock.

Moreover, the Scottish Government’s view is that it is better to place the issue of tope fishing within the wider context of fishing on all elasmobranches (sharks, skates and rays) rather than consider the issue on a species-by-species basis.

Nov 27 S3W-18268 - Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made in relation to securing additional marine responsibilities out to 200 nautical miles, as supported by the Parliament in its debate on Scotland’s Marine Environment on 20 March 2008.

Richard Lochhead : I am pleased to announce that Scotland will be granted executive devolution of marine planning and nature conservation out to 200 nautical miles. This follows the First Minister successfully pressing for the resurrection of the Joint Ministerial Committee as a formal mechanism for taking forward issues involving the UK Government and devolved administrations. Agreement has been reached on a framework for marine planning and nature conservation.

This will involve a coherent system of marine planning involving all parts of the UK. Scotland will participate in the development of a UK Marine Policy statement, which will provide a framework for the sustainable development of the UK Marine area. The Marine Policy Statement will guide marine planning and there will be a mechanism for Scottish ministers to decline to adopt a Marine Policy Statement. Additional marine planning and nature conservation powers including the powers to designate Marine Protected Zones will be executively devolved to Scottish ministers beyond 12nm to 200nm bringing these responsibilities into line with existing fisheries responsibilities. Scottish marine plans after agreement by the UK Government will be binding on UK bodies and departments exercising reserved functions. This provides the basis for a coherent system of marine management for the seas around Scotland joining up with the UK Government to provide an integrated framework to achieve a good outcome for Scotland’s seas.

Nov 10 S3W-17342 John Scott (Ayr) (Con):

To ask the Scottish Executive what assessment it has made of the effect of a ban on the discard of elasmobranches and whether it would consider excluding such types of fish from any such ban.

Mr Richard Lochhead : The Scottish Government does not believe that targeted fisheries on vulnerable elasmobranchs should be allowed. Equally the Scottish Government does not support measures that will inevitably lead to discarding. Therefore, the Scottish Government is looking for measures which will allow small unavoidable bycatches to be landed whilst preventing any targeted fishing from occurring.

Nov27 Elaine Murray MSP:

I will deal now with species that are less familiar to most of the population, but which are affected by fishing practice, although they are not the main focus of the forthcoming negotiations. Sharks do not generally inspire the same level of affection as other well-known endangered species but, as the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network and the save our sharks campaign have demonstrated, many of our native shark species are now endangered.

Recreational sea anglers release their catches alive back into the sea. They recycle fish but like commercial fishermen, they also make a valuable contribution to remote and rural communities. Those fishermen have monitored dramatic reductions in the populations of sharks, skate and ray in Scottish waters. Many of the species that were once plentiful in the Solway Firth, for example, are now rarely to be found.

The removal of one species from the marine environment can have unexpected consequences on other species that inhabit the same waters. Spurdog, which John Scott referred to, were targeted by commercial fisheries in the late 1980s—for the purposes of their sale as an edible fish, they were known as rock salmon. The population was decimated within five years, but as a result of the removal of that predator, whiting stocks in Luce Bay thrived. The whiting, in turn, predated on the flatfish population, which has still not recovered from that period.

Tope is in the frame as a commercial species, partly because of the market for shark fins for shark fin soup. This year, the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly have regulated to prohibit commercial fishing of tope. It is disappointing that Scottish ministers have refused to give the same protection to the species in Scottish waters but instead intend to wait until ICES states that the species is at risk.

The European Commission proposes to set zero TAC limits for spurdog and porbeagle and to prohibit retention of angel sharks, common sharks, ungulate rays and white skates. It is also proposed that existing skate and ray quotas be reduced by 25 per cent and that new TACs be introduced for those species in currently unregulated areas. I would like to hear Scottish ministers’ views on that. Ministers have stated in answers to written questions that there should be no fisheries that are directed to commercial fishing of elasmobranchs— as rays and sharks are collectively known—but that small, unavoidable by-catches should be landed. I disagree with John Scott’s view, but the issue needs to be discussed. We need to think about how “small” and “unavoidable” are to be defined, and what will happen to those by-catches. Will they be sold commercially? If so, how do we prevent the creation of a commercial market for those species and stop them being targeted, albeit that the number in Scottish waters is low? I am sure that such topics will be on the agenda of the cabinet secretary’s meeting with the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network on 11 December.

S3M-03263 John Scott (Ayr)(Con): Recreational Fishing - Article 47

That the Parliament notes with concern Article 47 of draft EU regulation SEC(2008) 2760/61, which would bring recreational sea fishermen under the direct control of the Common Fisheries Policy; understands that it would require recreational fishermen to register their boats, that their catches would be counted against the fisheries quota for that country and that each country would be required to allocate the share of its quota for each fish species that would be available for commercial and recreational fisheries use; believes that these proposals would create enormous administrative problems and would be effectively unworkable in a Scottish context; further believes that they will contribute little to the conservation of fishing stocks, and therefore calls on the Scottish Government to make representations to the European Commission opposing the provisions of Article 47 of the draft EU regulation. Lodged on Wednesday, January 21, 2021

S3W-20016 John Scott (Ayr) (Con):

To ask the Scottish Executive when the results of the study on economic impact of recreational sea angling will be published.

Mr Richard Lochhead :

I anticipate that the results of the study will be published by Easter.

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