Following on from the controversial BBC Landward documentary, screened on 20th July 2015, about the conflict of interests between the Creel Fishermen, Trawlers and Dredgers it is interesting to note that the Scottish Government are still not prepared to reintroduce the ‘one to three mile limit’ that had been in place until the Thatcher government removed it in 1984.
Prior to this, Trawlers and Dredgers were not allowed to fish close inshore.
Trawlers, as the name implies, trawl one or two nets behind their vessels and scoop up nearly everything in their path. In theory, smaller species can escape through larger holes in the nets.
Dredgers, however, operate by dragging a wheeled contraption along the seabed to which a net is attached and scoop up everything. Sadly in many cases this may also include the beautiful corals that have only recently been found to thrive in our waters and the breeding grounds for other marine life.
Creels, on the other hand, are attached to long ropes and sit on the seabed and are marked by buoys on the surface. This is known as a ‘fleet of creels’.
In some cases both Trawlers and Dredgers have snagged fleets of creels and though one would hope that a sense of propriety might prevail and the creels be handed back to their owners, it would appear from the documentary that this is not always the case and the lines can simply be cut free and left to sink to the seabed. A fleet of creels may be as many as twenty to thirty in number and this amounts to a loss in excess of £1,000.
So, what’s the answer?
One solution would be to bring in a Trial Period imposing the original ‘one to three mile limit’, monitored and regulated by the Scottish Government, of ten years or so and it is important that foreign vessels be included in this.
From - The Scottish Government
Highlands & Islands
Marine and Fisheries
Wester Ross waters to close to dredging.
An urgent Marine Conservation Order (MCO) is being brought in to safeguard fragile ecosystems off the coast of Wester Ross, after evidence emerged of a scallop dredger towing in a protected area.
From midnight tonight, all forms of dredging will be prohibited in the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area (MPA) which is home to delicate maerl beds. This fragile underwater feature is a nursery habitat for young scallops as well as other juvenile fish and shellfish.
The move comes after concerned members of the local community photographed and reported a breach of voluntary arrangements for fishing in the area, which have been in place since the site was designated a MPA last year.
Scotland’s network of Marine Protected Areas has been put in place to safeguard the nation’s most iconic marine species and habitats and, by doing so, securing the future of Scottish fisheries.
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
'It's very disappointing that a scallop dredger has breached the voluntary fishery management measures in this MPA which is considered vital to the recovery of maerl beds.
“The seabed shows signs of damage consistent with a pass of scallop dredging gear. Maerl beds can take centuries to grow back and further risk of damage to these precious habitats cannot be allowed.
“The evidence in this case has left me with no choice but to close the Wester Ross MPA to dredging now, instead of waiting until November as planned.
“This emergency conservation order will not affect other fishing activity in the Wester Ross MPA, including hand diving for scallops. Overall, these fisheries are worth around £2 million per year, mostly to the local community, and much of this will remain unaffected.
“However, dredging permitted under the voluntary management measures for the Wester Ross MPA was estimated to produce less than £100,000 worth of scallops each year. And of course, the 20 or so vessels that occasionally dredge in these waters – none of which are based in the local area - are free to fish elsewhere.
“Clearly, taking action now to protect these precious nursery habitats will benefit Scotland’s marine environment, local communities and our fishing sector for generations to come.”