The state of the Clyde debated in Holyrood

seabedA members’ business debate on motion S4M-08449, in the name of Kenneth Gibson, on Clyde 2020. The Motion debated –

That the Parliament acknowledges the commitment of Scottish ministers to meet the requirement under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive to bring the Clyde up to Good Environmental Status by 2020; recognises the substantial economic, social and environmental importance of the Clyde, both locally and nationally; believes that meeting the Clyde 2020 target will increase employment in a diversified fishing industry, enhance tourism by boosting recreational sea fishing and improve biodiversity on and around the Clyde; understands that there is a wide range of parties with an interest in the future of the Clyde, including the people of Cunninghame North, and welcomes efforts by those parties to work together to deliver on these objectives.

The following are excerpts from contributions by  :

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP) : The Clyde was once very productive, with a wide variety of finfish and marine life including shoals of herring, cod, whiting and others, but the introduction of more invasive fishing methods intensified fishing past sustainable levels. The removal of the three-mile ban was surely a contributory factor to the near collapse of bottom fisheries. The range of marine Clyde fish species has changed drastically, because many species are unable to cope with trawling or with pollution. Fishermen have to put in more hours to catch the same amount of fish as they caught in previous years…….

………Over time, sea angling has also faltered. Recreational sea angling was once a flourishing and profitable business that attracted people from far and wide to the waters of the Clyde. All the trophy-sized fish have disappeared, however, so many leisure fishermen stay away, and many areas around the Clyde have lost the tourism that sea angling brought in, which has damaged local economies.

Stuart McMillan (West Scotland) (SNP): I represent the West Scotland region, so this issue obviously falls within my area, but I also chair the cross-party group on recreational boating and marine tourism. One of the members of our cross-party group is the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network. I do not sail and I do not fish, but in working with the cross-party group I have been struck by the increasing appreciation among the various groups involved that, if there was a more collaborative approach across the wider marine tourism sector, we would all benefit……

……In July 2009, the Scottish Government published the report “Economic Impact of Recreational Sea Angling in Scotland”, which indicated that, across Scotland, sea angling is worth just over £140 million for the economy. That is despite what we know and have heard about the Clyde today. A healthier Clyde and a sustainable solution will bring even more recreational sea anglers to the Clyde’s shores, towns and villages, and I am sure that the economic benefit of £140 million will increase as a consequence.

Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con): The motion also mentions “recreational sea fishing”. The Scottish Conservatives are positive about sea angling and the economic benefits that it can bring. Indeed, I have previously undertaken work with the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network and I commend its efforts. Other parts of my region, such as Orkney, offer world-class sea angling opportunities, and it would be fantastic to see those replicated in the Clyde once again, as well as a return of some of the demersal fish stocks to which I referred a few moments ago.

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green):  Mr Nick Ferguson, the chairman of SIFT’s advisory group, described the collapse of the Firth of Clyde fisheries from sustained overexploitation. He described the collapse of angling and tourism and the huge decline in the number of boats heading out from his home village. He told us that 28 boats used to go out every day but that today there are only two or three. He also spoke about the depopulation of the towns and villages around the Firth of Clyde and about a population decrease in the tens of thousands. He described how, most evenings, there would be 10 or so boats out fishing for recreation in the Kyles, whereas now he might see one if he is lucky. He spoke about how the area was home to the biggest sea angling competition in Europe—a competition that has not happened for the past 25 years or so.

The Clyde is now described as “a fishery of last resort.”

The full official report is available at and video recording at

Category: Scottish Government News

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