Finlay Carson MSP, Scottish Conservatives’ Farming and Fisheries spokesperson, has called on the Scottish Government to impose an outright ban on razor clam fishing during the newly-announced consultation on electro-fishing.
After meeting with Marine Scotland to discuss razor clam fishing in Fleet Bay, Mr Carson wrote to the Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing seeking a meeting to discuss the policing of this illegal practice.
In his reply in Parliament on 15 August, Mr Ewing stated that both he and his officials in Marine Scotland have been aware of fishing vessels using electricity to fish for razor clams in the Luce Bay area and other areas of the west and southern coasts.
Mr Ewing also pointed out that “recent scientific studies undertaken by Government marine scientists have indicated that fishing for razor clams with electricity is a relatively benign method of harvesting, certainly when compared with some of the legal traditional methods”.
As a result, the Scottish Government have launched a consultation on whether it would be appropriate to allow for legal and properly regulated electrofishing for razor clams.
Commenting on the consultation, Mr Carson said: “For some time now, I have been raising the issue of illegal electro-fishing with Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government.
“In my own constituency of Galloway and West Dumfries, illegal fishing for razor clams has been taking place for a considerable amount of time and the lack of policing and proper enforcement has been abysmal.
“While the most recent surveys suggest that electro-fishing may be safe and not cause damage to other species, further scientific work needs to be carried out to ensure the sustainability of the razor clam beds.
“That is why although I welcome the announcement of a consultation on whether to legalise and properly regulate this type of fishing,
“I would urge the Cabinet Secretary to implement an outright ban on razor clam fishing during the consultation period.
“I also hope that every effort will be made to seek as many views and expert opinion as possible during the consultation, as it is imperative that the potential positive economic impact on coastal communities from razor clam fishing is founded on proper scientific research with sustainability as a primary concern.”
Mr Carson has also welcomed the UK Government’s guarantees over EU funding. The Government has assured farmers that the current level of funding under CAP Pillar 1 will be upheld until 2020, as part of the transition to new domestic arrangements.
Mr Carson said: “This announcement is excellent news for farmers in Galloway and West Dumfries and right across Scotland.
“Uncertainty is the last thing that farmers need with all the challenges in the industry at this time. This move by the UK Government means that farmers can plan ahead in the full knowledge that their funding is secure.
“As the negotiations for Britain’s exit from the European Union progresses, I hope that the industry will be fully represented and that farmers will have an opportunity to feed in their thoughts on how a new system for agricultural payments should operate.
“In Galloway and West Dumfries the agricultural sector is one of the main arteries of our economy so I am pleased that this announcement offers certainty to our local communities”.
Mr Carson has also written to UK Government Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, seeking a meeting to discuss the best way forward for farming communities across the country post-Brexit.