Previously operating as two separate FLAGs, Highland and Moray have formed a regional partnership to deliver the 2014-2020 programme. The Highland & Moray FLAG is the largest UK FLAG in operation covering 4,985km of coastline around some of the most sparsely populated and remote land in Europe.
There are seven main landing ports within the FLAG area, each supporting a diverse fishing and maritime industry. Haddock, cod, saithe and monkfish dominate demersal landings at Scrabster and Kinlochbervie, while the small deep-water port of Lochinver is preferred by visiting foreign vessels landing their catch (including scabbard, grenadier, hake and blue ling) to be transported to the continent for market. The Highland & Moray demersal fleet is small in size however its socio-economic contribution to fishing communities is still significant even though the number of active vessels has remained in steady decline over the last decade. To the west, Mallaig, Ullapool and Portree land are most known for shellfish including lobster, crab, langoustine and scallops.
Of equal importance are the large number of small harbours and piers located throughout the coastline that support the inshore shellfish fleet and provide a vital source of jobs and income in low populated, fragile and remote communities.
The aquaculture industry is a major socio-economic contributor in coastal communities on the west coast (especially in very remote areas). There is potential for increased production in the shellfish aquaculture sector and the FLAG aims to support projects/initiatives that enhance viability and add value to this sector.
The area has experienced a progressive decline in fisheries employment over the past decade - a number of communities in the area are in danger of long term decline and are further vulnerable due to their remoteness, an ageing population, lack of economic opportunity and lack of access to essential services. In response, ports are seeking to diversify activities through new investment and business opportunities in various marine based industries including renewable energy sector, oil and gas, cargo handling, leisure and tourism.
Together Highland & Moray represent over 50% of the total Scottish land area conservation designations. Those relating to the marine environment include the Moray Firth, the East Caithness Cliffs and the Lower River Spey and Spey Bay.
The Highland & Moray Local Development Strategy has three main themes:
1. Stronger and more resilient fishing communities
2. A sustained, growing and diversified marine, coastal and aquaculture economy
3. Improved understanding of marine environment and management of resources
National - Scottish Government
The FLAG will meet four times per year for project review and selection. Funding round deadlines and recent project approvals can be found on the FLAG website.
Private Sector actors in the FLAG include the Cullen Sailing School, the Three Harbours Association, the Federation of Small Businesses- Moray, the Buckie Business Association, the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers, the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, the Moray Firth Inshore Fisherman’s Association, the Moray Firth Partnership, the FOA27, the North & East Coast Inshore Fisheries Group and the West Coast Inshore Fisheries Group. While public sector members include Highlands & Island Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Highland Council, Moray Council and Visit Scotland.