Measures to protect spawning cod in the Firth of Clyde for the past 20 years will continue in 2022 and 2023, through the seasonal closure (between 14 February and 30 April) of the area to fishers.
Since its introduction, the Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI) for the annual closure of the spawning ground has included exemptions to allow Nephrops trawlers, creels and scallop dredgers to continue to use the area, due to the low numbers of cod that they catch. However, despite the ongoing seasonal closure, the stock has shown little sign of recovery so the Scottish Government has removed these exemptions to maximise numbers.
During spawning, cod are extremely vulnerable to any activity impacting the seabed as fish are very territorial and unwilling to leave their mating areas (leks) and, as a result, are less likely to try and evade oncoming fishing gear. In addition, limiting physical disturbance during the spawning period will minimise disruption to the spawning environment and harness cod reproduction.
Removal of the exemptions will also create consistency with management in other areas, including the UK National North Sea Cod Avoidance Plan, which covers closure areas for all gear types (excluding pelagic), and the recent emergency Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation in the Inner Sound and related Marine Conservation Order, which includes prohibition on creeling and diving in order to protect the critically endangered flapper skate nursery area.
This represents a change to our previous position – for sound environmental and biodiversity reasons. It will have a short-term impact on local fishers given that the full closure of the fishery is for 11 weeks, but by taking action now, we hope to see the stock replenish which will ultimately be beneficial for fishing interests.
This change to the seasonal closure aligns with the commitments in the policy programme of the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens and our shared aim to restore marine habitats in Scotland’s inshore waters. We believe that this measure will provide a higher chance of stock recovery and contribute to a more sustainable fishery in the West of Scotland in the medium-longer term.