New scallop dredging regulations "woefully inadequate", say campaigners
Scallops - image credit: Dunnock_D/Flickr
New measures aimed at protecting Scotland’s scallop stock have come under fire from environmental groups, with campaigners describing changes announced by Fergus Ewing as “woefully inadequate”.
Earlier this week the Fisheries Secretary said new measures, which will increase the minimum landings size of scallops from 100mm to 105mm, “will help secure the long-term sustainability of the stock”.
The new “Regulation of Scallop Fishing (Scotland) Order 2017”, taking effect from 1 June 2017, will place restrictions on the number of dredges scallop vessels can tow in inshore waters.
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The announcement follows reports of large-scale damage to a rare flame shell reef off the west coast of Scotland by a scallop dredger.
But a group campaigning for sustainability has questioned the scale of the Scottish Government’s ambition, with campaign organisation Open Seas accusing ministers of “cherry picking recommendations”.
Nick Underdown, campaigns manager at Open Seas, told Holyrood the measures were “a sticking plaster for an industry that damages our inshore waters for scant reward”.
Announcing the changes, Ewing said: “The scallop sector is very important to many of our local communities and these management measures coming into force will help secure the long-term sustainability of the stock.
“Scottish vessels landed £33 million of king scallops in 2015 and helped to sustain jobs in some of our most rural communities, both directly on fishing vessels and related industries like processing.
“We are committed to protecting this important sector and have taken time to develop an approach that takes into account the variations in size in the fleet. Those vessels that host electronic monitoring equipment will give us accurate and up-to-date information that can help us improve future management.”
But Open Seas called for tougher action to protect inshore sea beds. Campaigns manager Nick Underdown, told Holyrood: “These measures announced by Fergus Ewing are woefully inadequate.
“Last month he said electrofishing was less damaging than dredging, and now he’s rubber stamping the scallop dredge fleet to continue scraping the floor of our sea lochs. The Scottish Government is cherry picking recommendations, whilst spatial management - something recommended by a raft of government funded reports - has been totally ignored.
“The fact is that scallop dredging still remains legal within 95 per cent of our inshore waters. Incremental changes like those announced here will do little to secure the long-term sustainability of our seas - it’s a sticking plaster for an industry that damages our inshore waters for scant reward. Rural communities want to see more sustainable fishing that would boost our coastal margins and the Scottish Government needs to invest in the health of our inshore for longer-term return.”
Underdown added: “Since Scottish Ministers took on management responsibilities for Scotland’s seabed, as part of further devolution of the Crown Estate, Fergus Ewing has been doing a poor job of managing the foundation of Scotland’s clean marine image, let alone looking after the health of our coastal waters. Clearly this is something the Government needs to address in the much anticipated, urgently needed, manifesto commitment for an Inshore Fisheries Bill.”