Comprehensive Plan Lodged to Boost Clyde Fisheries

Date: 21/10/2015

The Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) has lodged with the Scottish Government an innovative proposal to revive the Firth of Clyde’s once great fishery. The proposal, for a Regulating Order under the 1967 Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act, aims to improve the Firth’s existing shellfish fishery and bring back its former finfish fishery.

The Firth of Clyde Regulating Order proposes the creation of Zones around the 3600km2 Firth, in addition to the nature-conservation oriented Marine Protected Areas (MPA), where commercial fish species could breed and then ‘spill over’ into the fishing grounds. The zoning would also ensure that damaging fishing methods are not able to operate on the most sensitive seabed types.

This would boost the fishery sector, help revive the Clyde’s degraded environment and benefit other marine activities including recreational sea angling and wildlife tourism. Economic analysis carried out for SIFT shows that the proposal could bring over 100 new jobs to the Clyde’s commercial fishing sector and over 130 more to its recreational sea angling sector.

The application for the Regulating Order, which is for an initial 10-years and is for the prawn and scallop fisheries, would put a new non-profit locally-led management company in charge of the Spatial Management Zones and other measures. The application sets out detailed plans for the Zones and how they would co-exist with proposals for the South Arran MPA. In summary; 72% of the Firth would remain open to scallop dredging, 75% of the Clyde would remain open to prawn trawling; and 92% of the Clyde would remain open to prawn creeling and scallop diving.

The application will now be considered by Scottish Ministers. The next phase of the process is expected to be a formal consultation process, which will build on the extensive consultation that has been carried out by SIFT since 2013. After that, Ministers would have the option to call a Public Local Inquiry before making a final decision.

Charles Millar, Director of SIFT, said:

"The Clyde once hosted a rich mixed fishery for cod, whiting, herring and many other species. Those days have gone, and now over 99% of landings from the Firth are shellfish. The current overdependence on prawns and scallops is bad for economic and environmental security, both of which leave local communities exposed. Our proposal is the only way to help the shellfishery whilst also bringing back commercial stocks of finfish. It is 21st century fishery management. It brings in spatial management, devolves control to local people and addresses long-standing challenges like gear conflict between different sectors of the fishery.

“These proposals are a chance to bring the best international practice here to benefit the local and the national economy. We know from the many thousands of local supporters for the Revive the Clyde campaign who have called for the sort of measures the RO offers, that there is huge demand for action. The economic consequences of continued inaction are stark. We hope the proposed Regulating Order will be approved."

Alistair Sinclair, National Coordinator of the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation, said:

"Much as many creelers would prefer the simplicity of a revived three-mile limit, this Regulating Order offers our industry a chance to thrive and grow, and to have our say in the management of the Clyde. It would significantly reduce the gear conflict that costs creelers dear, and would allow creel fishermen to operate on a level playing field.”

Dr Bryce Stewart, a fisheries biologist at the University of York and a member of SIFT's Steering Group, said:

“The research is clear: although protected areas make the fishing grounds smaller, they make them richer overall - particularly in the case of the scallop fishery. In protected areas scallops become more plentiful and larger. This enables them to produce many more juveniles which then spill over into the fishing grounds. So the fishery, and the environment, is a winner. The spatial zoning should also lead to a shift towards creeling for prawns, which is a higher-value proposition, and one that has minimal by-catch of other species and much reduced impact on the seabed.”

"The evidence from elsewhere, from Maine to the Isle of Man, is that scallop populations can be increased massively through small recovery areas. In the case of Isle of Man scallop fishery, only just across the sea from the Clyde, spatial management has returned catches to a 20-year high. The Clyde needs to be intelligently managed, with local fishermen having the strongest say, and this is far and away the most comprehensive proposal yet put forward."

All documentation will also be available online at http://www.sift-uk.org/ from the morning of 21st October 2015.

 

 

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Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust is a Registered Scottish Charity Number SC042334