Deregulate and decline in the Clyde

Fishery regulations in the Clyde extend back to 1851 when there was a conflict between traditional drift netting and beach seining for herring in Loch Fyne and beach seining was banned.

This ban was repealed in 1867.

The drift net fishermen then claimed that beam trawling and latterly otter trawling were injurious to the herring fisheries and in 1885 both beam  and otter trawling were prohibited within a limit of 3 miles from low water mark and in other areas specified by byelaws of the Herring Fishery(Scotland) Act.

The prohibition was relaxed in the Clyde between 1889 and  1908 when beam trawling was permitted within certain areas for a part of the year.

Fishisng for herring on the Ballantrae Bank (a major herring spawning ground) was banned in 1901.

And repealed in 1910.

The circle net was then modified to become the flounder seine and intended  for the capture of
flat-fish in shallow water. This was banned in 1898.

And relaxed in 1905 in relation to operations in certain areas by small boats.

In the 1920s the Danish seine was introduced into Scotland and rapidly replaced the flounder net. In 1921 this method of fishing was permitted by boats not exceeding 40 foot for the capture of whitefish anywhere in the Clyde.

The development of the nephrops fisheries in the 1950’s began with the Danish seiners but it was soon  found that light otter trawls were much more efficient at catching  nephrops and that some of the best grounds were in areas where trawling was banned.

But then relaxed for vessels of less than 70 foot in 1962.

Trawling was still prohibited within the 3 mile limit. 

In 1968 fishing was permitted throughout the year.

Pair trawling began to evolve in the 1960s but was prohibited in the Clyde by a gentlemen’s agreement.

A bye-law was passed in 1969 to allow pair trawling.

In 1967 the Secretary of State for Scotland appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Cameron to review the law governing fishing in Scottish coastal waters.

This report led to the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Act 1984 which repealed most of the existing legislation and allowed fishing by all methods within the three mile limit.  This act came into force in July 1985.

A consultation paper was then issued in April 1988 regarding the impact of the Act. It noted numerous representations made by anglers and tourist interests on the effect the commercial fishing activity was having on fish stocks and acknowledged that commercial fishermen were by then operating in areas which were once the almost exclusive domain of anglers.

However, under tremendous pressure, masterly inactivity triumphed once again and the interests of the recreational sector were ignored in favour of the vested interests of the commercial sector.

The result of all this ‘relaxation’ – the Clyde is now a monoculture fishery.

  • for the commercial sector – Nephrops or nothing
  • for sea anglers, the Clyde is essentially devoid of any worthwhile fish
  • for the tourism industry, the loss of a very significant destination
  • for the fish – 20 species depleted to the point of local extinction ?

One of their high profile spokesman was recently reported as saying it will stay this way as regenerating whitefish stocks is not in the interests of the nephrops fishermen; but perhaps even nephrops are beginning to fail as plans are already being discussed to continue ‘fishing down the foodchain’ in the Clyde, exploiting brown shrimp and smaller shellfish such as Otter Shell.

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