The Rural Affairs and Islands Committee closes SCFF petition to reinstate an inshore coastal limit on the use of dredge and trawl fishing gears
The Rural Affairs and Islands Committee heard today from Alistair Bally Philip on behalf of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation who are calling on the Scottish Parliament to reinstate inshore coastal limits on the use of dredge and trawl fishing gear.
Mr Philip gave evidence before the Committee this morning into his reason for submitting a petition that would see a three nautical mile exclusion zone introduced on bottom-trawling and dredging on the Scottish coastline.
When asked by the Committee what the hoped to achieve by the introduction of a three-mile limit, Mr Philp said that the Scottish Government is legally obliged to bring about the protection of marine areas and that this was one way of helping to achieve it.
He told the Committee that 58% of Scottish waters is classified as highly-disturbed due to bottom-trawling and dredging, and that the government is legally obliged to have this reduced to 15% by 2030. Mr Philp was asked to clarify where he got the information and he promised the Committee member he wuld come back with the evidence.
Mr Philp was then asked why he was asking for the reinstatement of a ban of the Sea Fisheries Act 1883, to which he replied that he wasn’t looking for its reintroduction as it was too complicated but he was seeking an eco-systems based management plan. When he was asked if dredging was originally Act, he answered that he wasn’t sure.
The Committee heard from Mr Philp that prohibiting bottom towed gear in the three mile limit especially for fisheries such as prawns, would increase the value of the catch along with increasing employment. Relying on a report from the New Economics Foundation from 2016, he said that the banning of bottom-towed fishing gear would also have greater economical benefits for coastal communities. He
Mr Philp claimed that bottom trawling had detrimental effects of cod on the West Coast of Scotland, leading to the ICES recommending a zero-catch limit. He said, “if that if not reflective of a decimated fish population I don’t know what is.”
He said that dredging had decimated mussel beds and flame shell beds in areas along the west coast withing a ten-year period. He said that bottom-trawling along with dredging had seriously damaged cod and herring stocks in the Clyde.
Asked if the cod issue was more reflective of global warming conditions rather than mobile gear, and if his theories were based on a personal perception rather than on scientific fact, Mr Philip referred that the loss of cod was down to “habitat modification” by prawn trawlers and dredge fisheries. He said that “Although trawling catches only one percent by weight of cod in the Clyde, that turns out to be two thirds. Two out of three of every single cod in the Clyde ends up as bycatch in the nephrops fishery.”
Asked what would be a solution, Mr Philp replied that he was not suggesting a three nautical mile blanket ban on trawling and dredging around the west coast, or a 12 nautical mile ban on the east coast, but instead, a 10 year management plan should be put in place.
He said the government has not put any fisheries management plans in place, especially for shellfish as they claim there is not enough data to do so. He also stated that the fleet was over-capacity with more than 2,000 inshore creel boats alone, and that no management plan would work unless the government ensured that both were in balance.
Asked if he was only concerned about ensuring the future of creeling over other types of fisheries he said that he wasn’t but that his concerns were that there was no limits on how many times a boat can trawl one area, and how many boats can trawl that one area at one time. Similarly, with creels, he said there were no restrictions in place on how many creels were fished in any area.
After considering Mr Philp’s evidence, the Committee returned a verdict to close the petition but agreed to carry forward today’s evidence when they will be looking at the issue in a broader hearing.
In their statement on the hearing the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee said:
“The Committee considered a petition by Alistair Bally Philp on behalf of The Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation, calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to reinstate inshore coastal limit on the use of dredge and trawl fishing gears and take evidence from—
Alistair Bally Philp, National Coordinator, Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation.
“The Committee agreed to close the petition and incorporate consideration of a potential coastal limit on the use of mobile dredge and bottom-trawling fishing gears in its wider and ongoing work around inshore fisheries issues.”