Indigenous And Cultural Rights of Coastal Fishing Communities

Former Chairman of the Fishermen’s Association Ltd (FAL) and Fishing for Leave, Sandy Patience, outlines the failings of  current policy which is often ill-concieved with ideas that, although politically expedient in the short term, take no account of husbanding both the marine environment and communities dependent on it.

The current regime has seen local resources and communities squeezed out and consolidated. With Brexit, we have a fantastic chance to undo the damage and ensure that one of British people’s greatest natural resources is managed sustainably and equitably for all.

This needs to happen in a manner that allows communities to thrive and flourish for generations to come.


Having spent my entire working life as a commercial full-time fisherman, and now at the age of 72 in semi-retirement as a part-time shellfish fisherman, it is with great sadness, and indeed disbelief, that today fishermen find themselves without any rights to our local resources.

Even although there is an inextricable connection between people and the natural environment, and the ways in which history connects all of us to a place.   It is a living example of the values our culture and the way of life we hold dear.

Successive governments have eroded our small and once vibrant coastal communities, through policies not only ill engineered to protect marine life but which are without acknowledgement that families and communities who has fished those waters for generations also needs protection to preserve an industry that is central to our identity.

Through political neglect and indifference we have been robbed of our rights and discriminated against in the exercising of those rights to preserve who we are.

Our vision is entirely at different levels from the status quo and of those in government, and in the industry, who only seek short term self interest.  We seek to have protection of our culture, social, communal and indigenous rights which are implicit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Historically most of the small Scottish fishing communities were mainly built on herring and sprat fisheries, especially in the Inverness, Beauly and Cromarty Firths and in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Clyde.

When Government decided to set a reference period of involvement in fishing for pelagic species in 1991 most if not all of the smaller type of inshore vessels were forced out, as the price of herring dropped to unprofitable levels.

Many owners sold their entitlements. These were bought by the purse seine fleet, later to become the super pelagic trawlers but, some quota especially Herring Static Gear Quota was removed by stealth.

Our local fleet in the village of Avoch, pursued the Kessock herring and sprat fisheries for generations, only to be robbed of our rights by this 1991 legislation. This discrimination has continued up until the present day. It is now the time to have it re-addressed.

The management ideals used in Norwegian fisheries to husband resources and communities should be adopted by the British Government going forward-


  • The principle requires that the authorities consider necessary management measures to ensure sustainable management of all living marine resources on a regular basis.


  • The resources shall be harvested taking in to account that people and communities have a natural place in the eco-system.


  • The resources shall provide a basis to support fishing industry employment and communities.


  • Harvesting shall take place in a manner that makes it possible for future generations to harvest in perpetuity.


Who could disagree with the management principle above which establish an eco-system approach that enshrines everyones right to a share in the harvest that has been provided by providence?