Scottish Greens urge ministers to restrict fishing access to West Shetland Shelf
The Scottish Green party has accused the Scottish Government of failing in its legal duty after an EU ban on trawling on a previously protected area of the sea ended, without being replaced by domestic legislation.
Sitting on the West Shetland shelf, the 4,000 square kilometre ‘Windsock’ area is a feeding ground for endangered cod, starfish and anemones.
But with an EU ban on trawling being lifted, and protections brought by its status as a Marine Protected Area not yet in place, environmental campaign group Open Seas warned the Ferret that white fish producers will “use a legal loophole to smash and grab in one of the most important parts of our seas.”
With cod stocks in decline, environmental groups have campaigned for greater protections for the species.
Meanwhile the Scottish Green MSP John Finnie claimed” the Scottish Government have taken their eye off the ball on this”.
He said: “Trawlers entering this area from today will be causing serious environmental harm. The Scottish Government must immediately vary the license conditions to prevent access to the West Shetland Shelf MPA.
“I understand there is already an agreement in place between trawl and creel sectors on sharing access and avoiding conflict following the failure of the Scottish Government to ensure continued protections, it is vital the Scottish Government is vigilant and acts to guarantee the terms.”
But while the Scottish White Fish Producers Association confirmed the area would be open for fishing, it said boats would target other species than cod.
The association’s chief executive, Mike Park, said: “The area in question provided catches of a number of other species such as haddock, whiting, megrim, witch, coley, ling and hake amongst others. It is predominantly these species we want access to harvest.”
“The areas within the windsock that host cod abundances are quite defined, on the hardest of ground and are known to our fishermen. The size of the closed area introduced by the European Commission was typically disproportionate and in no relation to the actual limited area of cod catches.”
Open Seas head of policy and operations, Phil Taylor, told the Ferret: “The fishing industry, scientists and environmental groups have all already agreed that this site needs protection.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing to see that Scottish white fish producers are trying to short circuit this democratic process and use a legal loophole to smash and grab in one of the most important parts of our seas.”