RFS Group Certified

With great pleasure we announce that SWFPA is now certified as a group in the Responsible Fishing Scheme. The current approved members can be found on the RFS section on our website . The group is the first to gain certification of its sort.

RFS Update

By James Buchan – Internal RFS Auditor

During the first quarter of last year I started auditing potential vessels for entry into the RFS scheme through SWFPA. There were challenges, primarily as to the burden put on fishermen with paperwork. Largely this has been removed and simplified.

We have since moved on and are now engaged in putting qualifying vessels into a group scheme. This will simplify the system even more and reduce the number of audits done onboard. Presently there are over 60 vessels ready to enter the group scheme and even more are in application.

Peterhead Fish Market now has RFS vessels clearly identified in yellow on their daily fish landings page.

Preparing cod

Preparing cod for the fish market…


It was an honour and privilege to be awarded an OBE  in the Queen’s birthday honours list, which was in recognition of  my contribution to marine conservation.  I was especially delighted to receive it from HRH Prince Charles who has done so much in his own right to raise awareness of marine related issues and his promotion and support of sustainable harvesting.


Fishermen have  matured significantly since the dark days at the turn of the century, where anarchic behaviour and overfishing reduced a number of stocks to fairly critical levels.  I was as guilty if not more so than my fellow fishermen, very much ignoring the needs of the future in order to meet here-and-now  demands. Repayment loans and sending the crew home with a decent wage for a hard weeks graft was our only focus.


Many stocks reached levels capable  of delivering irreparable and long term harm. Fleet decommissioning schemes in 2001 and 20O3 drew a line under year-on-year declines,  although it would be a number of years before species such as cod would show any signs of recovery.


The lasting images of vessels sailing from harbours never to return was a sobering and life changing moment, only then did I and others see the light, declare mea culpa and embark on a life long commitment to rebuild and maintain our stocks and in the process recover our once proud industry.


Blame has no place in a modern society, learning from our past and applying the lessons it provides should be our aim.  The landing obligation coupled with a modern and efficient fleet means that we enter a new period in our development where vigilance and action will be required in strong measure.


My hope is to remain in my post until such time as we leave the EU and begin to create  a whole new dynamic around our Scottish fisheries. Our commitment to sustainability and protection of the wider ecosystem should allow us to become a real entity in the supply of sustainable quality seafood.



Windfarms in Scottish Waters – Floating vs. Fixed

The technology around wind turbines changed massively over the last few years. Many windfarm operators have applied for new licences only a short while after a licence was given, due to new possibilities they didn’t thought possible. Materials become cheaper, turbines taller, possibilities larger.


The fishing sector welcomes bigger turbines. Bigger turbines often mean less turbines, which equals less space for the energy park and more left for fishing.


However, bigger turbines are not the only new possibility. Another development is not received as well: floating turbines. Floating structures use more space, as the anchors to keep them in place are far from the turbines itself. Fishing, especially trawling, is impossible anywhere near floating turbines. While fishing inside a statutory wind park might be a possibility sometime in the future, fishing inside a floating windfarm is not.


During meetings regarding the new wind farm options in Scottish Waters, SWFPA and SFF have repeatedly voted against floating turbines. The fishing industry rather has statuary parks over a floating park any time. Unfortunately, it is the developers’ choice, who will have planned the park before talking to the fisheries. We will keep trying to change their minds by attending all necessary meetings.



Statement on illegal scallop fishing in Gairloch

Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, condemned the recent illegal activity in Gairloch, especially as it is an area where vulnerable marine habitats are being protected.


He underlined the fact that operators of the vast majority of scallop vessels in the UK behave responsibly and fish within the law and the terms of their licence conditions.


“Regulations are critical to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are balanced, and within the SWFPA we have a strong tradition of working with others to protect stocks and the marine environment.


“The SWFPA was instrumental in calling for electronic monitoring on board scallop vessels above 15 metres. We are now calling on the Scottish Government to introduce such measures on board every vessel dredging for scallops, irrespective of size. It is important that we put an end to these sorts of unwelcome transgressions.


“We will be writing to Cabinet Secretaries Fergus Ewing and Roseanna Cunningham to push for tougher legislation so that technology can be installed as soon as possible on board all scallop vessels. There can be no credible or rational excuse to delay its introduction.”


According to fisheries statistics compiled by the government, 11,000 tonnes of scallops worth £25.9 million were landed in Scotland last year, most of which was exported abroad.

Brexit Opportunities

Brexit will give opportunities to rural Scottish villages. How? Find out in the video below!

Mike Park SWFPA from Paul Riddell on Vimeo.

Opening Peterhead Fish Market

SWFPA chief executive Mike Park greeted HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, and discussed the progress of talks towards a new post-Brexit settlement for fisheries during his visit to formally open the new Peterhead Fishmarket on Saturday 29th September.

At a stand exhibiting the association’s work on sustainability, crew welfare, the environment, the Responsible Fisheries Scheme and the Brexit dividend, Mr Park was recognised by the Prince who stopped for a short exchange.

“He was interested in the positive work we are doing in a broad range of areas and we had a good discussion,” said Mr Park.

“The Prince has always been a champion of sustainability and his views on the environment are well known. The Scottish fishing industry has a great story to tell in this regard and we will continue to work on improving sustainability.”

Marine Spatial Planning

The ocean is getting busier. Marine traffic, aquaculture, tourism, renewable energy, oil & gas, seabed mining and of course fisheries are all competing for space. Many sectors use the same or neighbouring locations. For example, wind turbines need soft debris to allow their anchors to hold; these are often areas, which are inhabited by highly valued species such as nephrops.


Countries try to divide their waters between the various sectors as fairly as possible. That’s what Marine Spatial Planning is all about. There are many European-wide projects relating to some form of MSP. With research in smaller, focused areas, projects such as MUSES and Blue Growth try and determine how MSP can best be applied in European waters.


SWFPA attends many of the meetings to give input from a fisheries perspective. Many sectors do not realize their effects on wild catch fisheries and our views are very much appreciated. Together with the other sectors we try to make co-existence as easy as possible.

Venture sailing from Kinlochbervie

Beautiful sight of one of our members leaving Kinlochbervie for a fishing trip!


Windfarms in Scottish Waters

There are currently 10 renewable energy projects in Scottish waters:

  1. MORL West – Applying for licence in 2018
  2. Kincardine – Licenced, 2018 / 2019 expected construction
  3. Forthwind Offshore – Licenced, 2019 expected construction
  4. Inch Cape Offshore – Licenced, 2019 / 2020 expected construction
  5. SeaGreen – Licenced, 2019 / 2020 expected construction
  6. MORL East – Licenced, 2019 / 2020 expected construction
  7. Neart na Gaoithe – Licenced, 2020 / 2021 expected construction
  8. Beatrice – Licenced, under construction
  9. Aberdeen Offshore – Fully commissioned
  10. Hywind – Fully commissioned


Only one of the above projects doesn’t affect commercial fisheries in any way. All the other projects are located on fishing grounds. As (marine) animals are bound to their habitats, fishing someplace else is often not possible.


There are no examples (yet) of a successful coexistence between (mobile) commercial fishermen and offshore wind energy parks. In many countries (e.g. the Netherlands, Belgium) fishermen are not allowed to fish inside a windfarm; in Scotland fishing inside a farm is not prohibited, but fishermen often do not access the area due to navigational difficulties and potential dangers.


There are many unknowns regarding wind energy in the ocean. What effects do these “artificial reefs” have? What effects does the electromagnetic field have? And the noise? Some populations are known to increase, but other species disappear from the area completely.


Even though these questions remain unanswered and long-term effects are not known either, in June 2018 the Scottish Government published a document (Areas_of_Search) with new areas designated for wind farms. From a fisheries perspective, this is very worrying, will all fishing grounds be used as renewable energy parks?






Fish Market

After catching, the fish will be carefully checked and sold at a fish market. In this vlog shows the observers checking the fish on the market.

Foreign Crew in the whitefish fleet

Another fishermen vlog, on foreign crew: very skilled men from all over the world on board the Scottish whitefish fleet.

SWFPA1 from Paul Riddell on Vimeo.

Venture Trip

Always working for the freshest fish! Another fisherman’s vlog showing life onboard a fishing vessel!

Mike Park OBE

SWFPA chief executive Mike Park has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to marine conservation.

The association has been at the forefront of work to restore the health of stocks and protect the marine ecosystem, engaging and collaborating with the environmental lobby in the process.

“My name is on it, but this award is recognition of the work that the industry has been carrying out to ensure it has a sustainable business model for decades to come.”

Aquaculture and fisheries

There is an increasing number of fish farms on the West coast of Scotland. The farms, often growing salmon, contain 10 to 16 cages, each with a circumference of 80 to 120 meters. The cages are surrounded by moorings to keep the cages in place. The moorings can stretch like tentacles on the seabed for hundreds of metres.


Fish farms are usually located in small inlets. This protects them from most of the tide and weather, preventing them from dislodging and damage. Fishing is not possible inside farm areas due to these moorings. This causes conflict with fishermen who, in many cases, have operated within the area all their lives.


One of my roles is to liaise with aquaculture companies regarding positions of their new farms, as well as to try and solve some of the problems with existing ones. During my studies and previous employment, I’ve learned much about the theory behind aquaculture. Given that much of my understanding was steeped in theory it was enlightening to recently visit one of the fish farms in Loch Striven.


Loch Striven is very beautiful although the weather on the day significantly less so, it was a windy, rainy day in March. Draped in wet weather clothing, we made our way out to the farm on the farm-vessel.


A farm usually consists of cages with a floating office next to it. Our first stop was at this small office. It consists of the newest technology to measure the water conditions and keep a watchful eye on the fish. Fish behaviour is a very important proxy of their welfare and therefore the fish are watched at all times. We then jumped back on board the vessel to visit the cages. Feeding was in progress; floating cables pressurized with air shoot the food into the water to feed the fish. All the cages have small walkways around them. This allows them to check the nets and fish from up close. Harvesting was about to begin so we departed to terra firma once again.


During the day we chatted about how beautiful both our industries are, and how closer collaboration would be useful.  Both the fishing and aquaculture industry have important roles as food producers; both are necessary for the protein we need to feed the world.


Aquaculture technologies develop fast. Moving further offshore will be possible for these companies sooner than later. This may release pressure on inshore waters and fisheries but will undoubtedly lead to competition for space with other fishermen in offshore areas. In the meantime, everyone will benefit from good relations between those that farm fish and those that harvest the wild catch.


Written by Femke de Boer – Inshore Policy Officer

Hauling in bad weather

Weather on sea is not always good… But fishing continues!

Responsible Fishing Scheme

Written by James Buchan – Internal Auditor

May update

The Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) was introduced to maintain a standard that is acceptable to retail customers demands. In March, in collaboration with retailers, the SWFPA decided to actively pursue owners to commit to the RFS scheme.

Presently there are 42 SWFPA 5 MNWFA vessels certified by the Scheme.

Since I’ve started in March 2018, 7 more vessels have applied for certification:

  • 5 of these vessels are SWFPA
  • 2 of these vessels is MNWFA
  • 3 of these vessels are demersal trawlers
  • 2 of these vessels target scallops
  • 2 of these vessels target nephrops