In the on-going debate regarding the potential impact of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the destructive practices of trawling and dredging, Fisheries Minister Lochhead Lochhead has claimed that the "impact in the vast majority of cases will mean modest changes to fishing patterns with very limited economic impact given the ability of vessels to fish elsewhere."
According to the government, this is based on the fact that the measures will affect less than 3.5 per cent of Scottish territorial waters and will lead to a reduction in income for scallop fishermen who use dredges of only 1.6 per cent and of 1 per cent for prawn trawlers.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) disagree with this and are demanding a meeting as according to a spokesperson: "We thought that we had agreed on something that we could live with, but what the government has put forward bears no relation to that agreement".
However, the SFF’s claims have been dismissed by the 500-member Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) which believes that the government needs to go further to protect the seabed of inshore waters from what it regards as damaging fishing practices and is urging the government to stand firm.
Founded three years ago, the SCFF represents scallop divers as well as creel fishermen and claims to represent 80 per cent of the Scotland’s inshore fishing fleet. Alistair Sinclair, the SCFF’s national coordinator, said that in most inshore waters the interests of fishermen who use mobile gear and creel fishermen are "incompatible".
According to Sinclair, using creels or diving to fish for langoustines and scallops is a sustainable and green form of fishing that inflicts no damage on the seabed.
This is in contrast to the use of dredges or trawler nets which, Sinclair believes, have a devastating effect on the delicate ecology of the seabed as kelp, firework anemones and maerl beds (a coral-like seaweed that provides nursery areas for young cod, scallops and crabs) are destroyed when the heavy metal gear of dredging boats is scrapped along the seabed and in addition, says Sinclair, static creels left on the seabed are routinely damaged or destroyed by trawlers and dredgers and creel fishermen receive no compensation for this.
"What the government has proposed has been welcomed by our members but we think that Richard Lochhead should be bolder," said Sinclair, who believes that the government should consider re-instating a ban on dredging and trawling within three miles of the shore which was abolished in 1984.
It will be interesting to see just how far the Scottish Government is willing to go to continue to favour the destructive forms of commercial fishing as opposed to protecting the Scottish marine environment for the benefit of all.