Marine Scotland has issued a report on illegal fishing activities in Scottish MPAs

Marine Scotland has issued a report on illegal fishing activities in Scottish MPAs

Twenty-nine reports of illegal fishing in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were made to Marine Scotland during the period of 26 May 2020 until 30 May 2021.

The table shows the number of reports received from the public by MPA and gear type where known (this does not record the number of incursions, not all reports are confirmed incursions, see accompanying notes)

Reports are received from a range of sources and may range from very accurate to completely inaccurate. They do not prove wrongdoing or suggest guilt and it is misleading to present them as such. Further investigation might be needed to confirm this. Reports may contain errors such as:

  • misidentification of vessels
  • misidentification of activity
  • inaccurate details as to exact location of the activity being witnessed; and
  • and a range of other issues
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Other points to note:

  • the presence of a vessel in an MPA does not mean a law has been broken as vessels may transit through areas
  • different MPAs carry different restrictions so what is illegal in one, might not be in another
  • reports often do not confirm exactly where a vessel is in relation to any restrictions and are simply a report of what someone thinks they have seen
  • reports are seldom in real time but received after an event so the prospect of immediate action is reduced
  • reports received are taken at face value and accuracy cannot be verified until followed up at a later stage
  • reports are issued to officers to investigate to the extent that the evidence allows
  • all the reports received inform our tasking of marine and air assets and these provide a mechanism to gather further intelligence and enforcement action on the basis of that intelligence
  • a single report might relate to multiple vessels, and multiple reports may all relate to the same event or vessel
  • there is seldom a clear “line of sight” between reports received, and enforcement actions that might be taken
  • reports help build up a picture of what might be happening and our own assets can then investigate further
  • generally speaking, the reports are not kept any longer than 3 years

Reports from 26 May 2020 to 30 May 2021

      Gear Type  
Closure name Total number of reports Total no. of vessels Trawl Dredge Creel Other N/K Comments
Duart Point HMPA 2 2 1 1 includes 1 unidentified vessel
East Mingulay 1 1 1
Firth of Lorne MPA 1 2 2 Includes 1 unidentified vessel
Loch Carron 1 1
Lochs, Duich, Long and Alsh NCMPA 4 4 4 Includes 2 unidentified vessels
Red Rocks and Longay MPA 1 1 1
South Arran MPA 11 12 7 3 1 Includes 3 unidentified vessels
Upper Loch Fyne MPA 3 3 1 2 Includes 2 unidentified vessels
West Shetland Shelf MPA 2 3 3
Wester Ross MPA 2 1 1 1
Wyre and Rousay MPA 1 1 1 Includes 1 unidentified vessel
TOTALS 29 31 12 5 8 1 4  


Over the same period of time Marine Scotland issued 28 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs).

FPNs are civil fines which Marine Scotland are able to offer rather than pursuing a formal prosecution. The level of fine is determined by clear guidance and previous offences. They are restricted up to £10,000 for most fisheries offences. Where an FPN is not paid, the case is referred to the Crown Office. FPN’s allow Marine Scotland to deal with infringements in a timely manner.

If there is a possibility of an individual being identified, then the data would not be published as it would be in breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

Fixed penalty notices from 26 May 2020 to 30 May 2021

Breach of 10% tolerance 2
Breach of an Historic MPA 1
Breach of the landing obligation 1
Discarding 3
Failure to submit Catch on Entry / Catch on Exit (COE/COX) 2
Failure to provide adequate boarding ladder 1
Failure to submit FISH1s (statutory returns) 2
Fishing in a prohibited area 2
Fishing within a seasonal closure 1
Fishing with multiple trawls 1
Fishing with illegal net attachments 4
Using incorrect mesh size 2
Incorrect information on logbook 1
Retention of crab below Minimum Conservation Reference Size 1
Fishing without a Square Mesh Panel 1
Non submission of electronic logbook data 1
Incorrect twine thickness 1
Using undersize torquettes 1


Two cases of breach of regulations with regards to fishing in Scottish Marine Protected Areas has been referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) from 26 May 2020 to 30 May 2021.

Where it is determined that there is sufficient evidence, and that a prosecution is in the public interest, Marine Scotland refer the case to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service who will decide whether a case can proceed to trial or issue a fiscal fine.

If there is any possibility of identification of living persons from the data, then it will not be published.


  • reports received are very much at the start of any process, while fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued and referrals to COPFS are in most cases at the end of a process
  • this means that as the data covers the same time period the data may not relate to the same events


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Twenty-nine reports of illegal fishing in MPAs made to Marine Scotland

by editor time to read: 7 min