Looking into the future of Marine Planning, West Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (WCRIFG) formed an Aquaculture sub-group to foster better communications and understanding between Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture. Both are integral to coastal communities which are economically dependent on them. After the initial meeting it was agreed that there were synergies to be had working with other areas around Scotland, and the group was expanded to become simply the RIFG Aquaculture Working Group.
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. It was felt that now was a good time for inshore fishers, through the RIFG to consider, collate and communicate their views to any, and all, of the regulatory bodies involved in the said 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 fishers that they will not simply be displaced by Fish Farming but will be respected for their own produce. The group will cement a policy to assist the fishing industry deal realistically with the fish farming industry and the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation
The Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) aim to improve the management of inshore fisheries in the 0-6 nautical mile zone of Scottish waters, and to give commercial inshore fishermen a strong voice in wider marine management developments.