‘Revolving door’ between government and fishing industry criticised as ex-civil servant takes top role

A former civil servant with the Scottish Government has taken on a prominent role with a major fishing group to replace a fisherman fined for illegal dredging.

But Open Seas, which campaigns to protect the marine environment, has questioned “revolving doors” between the fishing industry and the Scottish Government, which regulates the sector.

Andrew Brown has been appointed chair of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association’s (SWFPA) scallop committee following the conviction of John MacAlister, who was ordered to pay £187,170 after illegal dredging took place off the coast of Yorkshire.

Brown is former head of fisheries strategy and environment at the Scottish Government with 20 years experience of the industry.

The SWFPA is the largest fishing association in Europe, representing around 200 vessels and 1,400 fishermen. It consists of six committees, each supporting a different area of Scotland’s seafood production industry. 

MacAlister played a prominent role at the SWFPA. As reported by The Ferret, he appeared at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court on 6 April for sentencing after admitting to several offences. The court heard there had been multiple breaches of local scallop dredging regulations and national fisheries legislation off the coast of Yorkshire.

Fishing industry ‘revolving door’

Following his conviction Open Seas questioned whether he should continue as chair of SWFPA’s scallop committee, but it refused to say if he would remain in the role.

Brown is now listed on the SWFPA’s website. The former government civil servant is director of sustainability and public affairs at Macduff Shellfish (Scotland) Ltd.

His LinkedIn bio says: “Director of sustainability with a demonstrated history of working in the fishery industry and fisheries governance. Skilled in environmental awareness, international relations, fisheries, policy analysis, and maritime affairs. Strong communicator, negotiator with 20 years experience working with government and stakeholders. Excellent analytical skills with a doctor of p[hilosophy (PhD) focused on environmental physics from Cranfield University.”

That the replacement industry chair is a former senior civil servant who was previously leading the Scottish Government’s fisheries management strategy suggests an unhealthy proximity between the wheels of government and the most environmentally damaging sector in the fishing industry.

Nick Underdown, Open Seas

In response to the appointment Open Seas commented on the relationship between the SWFPA and the Scottish Government. Spokesman Nick Underdown said: “That the replacement industry chair is a former senior civil servant who was previously leading the Scottish Government’s fisheries management strategy suggests an unhealthy proximity between the wheels of government and the most environmentally damaging sector in the fishing industry.

He added: “Irrespective of the revolving doors between industry and regulators, the Scottish Government needs to take a firm hold of the situation to deliver benefits for Scotland’s fisheries and our country as a whole, not just the vested interests involved in scallop dredging.”

In reply, Mike Park, chief executive of SWFPA, said: “It is sad to see an organisation like Open Seas again targeting individuals rather than recognising the real progress that the industry is making in tackling the issues at hand.

He added: “You should note  that SWFPA is still involved in many positive projects within the scallop industry, including but not limited to the Fishery Improvement Projects, SICG and has funded several PhD projects to research how to make the fishery more sustainable”.

The Scottish Government declined to comment.

Brown did not respond to our request for a comment.

Photo Credit: iStock/CBCK-Christine

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