The advantages for the Western Isles from leaving the European Union are being discussed
at a conference in Benbecula.
The fishing industry highlights Brexit will bring significant economic opportunities
including a jobs boom to remote areas.
The seminar, organised by the comhairle, comes it was revealed draft EU guidelines
over Brexit talks seeks existing access to UK waters to be maintained.
Fishermen want the opportunity for the UK to control seas out to 200 miles off the
coast coupled with enhanced catching opportunities for the inshore fleet inside the
12 mile limit.
Since joining the EU, the local fleet has declined by 25% in both number of vessels
and fishermen employed in the industry, with a similar situation in most other coastal
communities around Scotland.
Significant amounts of mackerel and herring are caught off the Hebrides - yet no
island boats have quota for these species.
Capturing a slice of that action plus increasing more local processing of fish would
mean a boost for remote communities where employment is hard to find.
With less EU trawlers in Scottish waters, there is a gap for Scotland’s fishing fleet
to expand, creating more jobs at sea.
In turn, more people would be needed for the expanded opportunities ashore - such
in processing factories and transport.
The conference will discuss the need for a programme of serious fish management and
investment is needed to ensure creating sustainable jobs.
It is believed for every job in fishing there are three or four posts created ashore
- in finance; fish and shellfish processing; fisheries management, packaging, marketing,
transport, tourism and catering.
But this raises challenges and uncertainty such as drawing up a strategy, putting
investment in place ahead of Brexit as well as recruitment issues as the workforce
is predicted to expand.
One worry is what will happen with the EU citizens currently employed in all sectors
of the fishing industry.
Fishing leaders insist they should be allowed to remain following UK withdrawal from
They also want all politicians to unite in meaningful negotiations to ensure seafood
has unrestricted access to European markets.
Processing the catch
Fishing industry highlights economic opportunities after Brexit