Police take on fishing pirates

MSP Alex Fergusson
MSP Alex Fergusson

Thanks to local knowledge, police gained a significant victory this week in the fight against illegal fishing for razor clams in Luce Bay.

In a month long joint operation in May, Police Scotland working in conjunction with Marine Scotland Compliance, successfully halted a group of vessels suspected of fishing with electricity in their bid to potentially harvest over £200,000 worth of razor clams.

Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson commented: “I am delighted that some action has finally been taken to curb this illegal activity. It is one that I have raised previously with enforcement authorities to no avail, but it is right that they have now listened to the concerns of local communities and finally taken decisive action. I hope that this will send a sharp message to those who seek to plunder local waters for their own gain without any thought of the effect on the marine environment and prevent any further activity.

“At the same time, this exercise highlights the potential for a shellfish ‘industry’ along the Solway coast, and I would again appeal to Marine Scotland to work with local interests to create a sustainable fishery within which the harvesting of cockles, razor clams and other species could play a major part in providing substantial home grown employment in this region.”

Police Scotland listened to the concerns of the local communities about these fishing boats and the damage they could be potentially doing to the marine life in the area. The operation focused in Luce Bay and local harbours of Drummore, Port William and the Isle of Whithorn to detect and deter fishing vessel operations engaged in suspected electro-fishing.

The technique of ‘electro-fishing’ is designed to make the razor fish rise to the surface of the sandy sea bed by trailing unprotected copper electrodes connected to an electric welder which significantly increases their catch rates of razor clams at a time. The clams are then illegally harvested. One diver lost his life in 2011 while using this unapproved technique. The boat skipper was jailed for nine months.

The razor clams illegally caught in Luce Bay are predominately exported to Singapore for onward distribution into the Asian market.

In the first four months of 2015 a total of 98 tonnes of illegally caught Razor Clams were declared to Marine Scotland at a total sales figure of over £450,000. In 2014 for Scotland in excess of 500 tonnes was exported from Scotland.

Detective Inspector Colin McColm, Border Policing Command, said: “Before the month long operation started, communities particularly those living in and around Port William and Drummore were approaching the Small Ports Unit officers with information and complaining about these fishing vessels.

“Throughout the period of the Operation the joint Agency approach helped deter the illegal act with no razor clams caught using illegal methods. It is with the help of the communities that this has been made a success and in order to continue the eradication of the illegal fishing, people need to help us and provide us with information and any concerns they may have.”