New group aims to find solution to heal rift between fish farms and fishermen

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A new west coast group is hoping to bridge the rift between fishermen and fish farms, which can encroach on fishing grounds.

Aquaculture in Scotland is set to double in size by 2030, generating an estimated £3.6 billion and 18,000 jobs.

Scottish farmed salmon, the UK’s biggest food export, is also predicted to double in production to 350,000 tonnes per year by 2030.

The expansion has, and will, set fish farm and fishermen against each other as they compete for space.

The West Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (WCRIFG) has formed a sub-group ‘to foster better communications and understanding between commercial fishing and aquaculture,’ said its chairman Simon Macdonald. ‘Both are integral to coastal communities which are economically dependent on them.

‘The driving force comes from the proposed huge future expansion of aquaculture, the fact that historically fishers were not considered as mandatory consultees, and also the promise of a review by Scottish Government of the aquaculture licencing process.

‘The working group is particularly concerned with the aquaculture planning process (especially when it comes to the impact of proposed sites on traditional fishing grounds), poor site maintenance and monitoring which can lead to instances of vessel entanglement, and also the environmental impact of the sites on both commercial and non-commercial species.

‘The group believes that while the sector has made many advances over the past decade, increased transparency and oversight are needed to ensure the aquaculture sector can better co-exist with the fishing industry.

‘The aim of the group would be initially to ensure that there is a proper analysis of localised fishing and follow up with clear and sensible communications between the two sectors to ensure that with expansion does not come conflict.

‘It is indeed a timeous idea, which will hopefully reassure fishermen that they will not simply be displaced by fish farming, but will be respected for their own produce.’