Fishermen face Clyde closure

Fishing boats in Stranraer harbour this week
Fishing boats in Stranraer harbour this week

A fishermen’s association says new measures designed to protect marine waters could threaten fragile fishing communities on the Clyde.

The Scottish Government has published new draft Marine Conservation Orders (MCOs) under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 covering proposed management at four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The Scottish Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) has also applied for a regulating order to cover the full extent of the Firth of Clyde to manage prawn and scallop fishing. SIFT says finfish stocks in the Clyde have declined and the Firth of Clyde is now predominately a prawn and scallop fishery.

However it says these stocks fluctuate quite markedly and that basing a fishery on prawns and scallops alone is not good management. The charity says that the fishing industry will be strongly represented within the regulating order and the move is designed to maximise the sustainability of the fishery.

The Clyde Fishermen’s Association however say that the measures go far beyond what was agreed in government consultation with the industry over the past four years.

The CFA believe the actual cost of the management measures in real terms will go far beyond the estimated overall cumulative impact predicted by Marine Scotland of less than 2% of the combined annual income of the affected fishing vessels.

The CFA says it believes that livelihoods and communities will be significantly impacted, resulting in a threat to already fragile communities and has held a series of meetings around the Clyde coast recently including in Stranraer and say fishing communities face ‘extinction’ due to the ‘overly ambitious’ MPAs.

From the period 19 to 30 November, more than 420 people from Stranraer, Largs, Campbeltown, Islay, Tarbert, Carradale and Troon engaged in the meetings to discuss the proposed MPAs and the Regulating Order.

Elaine Whyte of the CFA said: “We engaged with Marine Scotland over four years and felt they were very happy with the proposals. “They have now announced ambitious MPAs which go against the advice of SNH and say it was the will of communities. However we have held seven meeting with 420 people attending and a lot of people in the affected communities don’t know what these are.

“These areas are in what we call free sheltered areas where fishing will be closed. These are the best grounds and when there is bad weather fishermen won’t be able to fish at all. We estimate 50 per cent of their gross take will be lost and they won’t be able to continue.

“Crews will be laid off and they all have families to feed.”

“An impact study undertaken in Kintyre by the CFA showed that the measures would result in £26.6m being taken out of the economy and the loss of 140 jobs.”

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) says Marine Protected Areas are not ‘no take zones’, they are designed to protect marine species, habitats and, by default, fish nursery grounds, while at the same time allowing nearly all of the marine activities which already occur in these areas to continue.

It says in South Arran 36% of the area will still be available to prawn trawling and far from harming communities they have real potential to give a new lease of life to Clyde coastal towns and ports.

They claim MPAs will encourage well-managed creeling, scallop diving, wildlife tourism and eventually a return of sea angling.

COAST Chair, Howard Wood OBE said: “Clyde MPAs can play a real part in reviving the Clyde and the fortunes of our coastal communities. With effective management we can again have a truly productive and biodiverse Clyde which supports a diversity of marine jobs.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We need to balance the interests of protecting Scotland’s marine environment with wider economic interests, particularly those of the fishing industry. However, failure to protect coastal areas would result in permanent damage to habitats and the fish stocks they support – that is the real risk for our coastal communities.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment is currently considering views expressed by stakeholders and the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee. At every step of the MPA process we have put information into the public domain and we will do so once again when the Cabinet Secretary makes his final decision.

“Marine Scotland has received an application for a Regulating Order in the Clyde. This is entirely separate from the MPA process. Such Orders are subject to the provisions of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967. As such, it would be inappropriate to comment on the application at this stage.”