The Future Catching Policy consultation will decide the Scottish government's decisions on the future of gillnetting in Scottish waters

The Future Catching Policy consultation will decide the Scottish government’s decisions on the future of gillnetting in Scottish waters

The Scottish government was asked whether it would consider a ban on gillnetting in Scottish waters, but Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has not committed to the action saying that the government will await the outcome of the Future Catching Policy consultation.

Questions regarding the impact of gillnetting and a future ban on gillnetting was raised in written questions to Minister Gougeon by the Shetland Islands’ Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP. Beatrice Wishart.

In relation the impact of gillnetting on marine life and marine litter, the Shetland MSP asked:

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“To ask the Scottish Government what actions Marine Scotland is taking regarding gill net fishing and its reported impact on marine life and marine litter.”

Minister Gougeon replied:

“Gill netting is a legitimate form of fishing activity permitted within Scottish waters. As with all forms of sea fishing, gill net vessels must comply with all applicable rules, regulations, and technical standards, when carrying out their fishing operations. Furthermore, the retained EU regulation (EU) 2019/124(the Technical Conservation Regulation) provides that vessels with an overall length of 12 metres or more, whilst using any bottom-set gill net in certain parts of Scottish waters must use an acoustic deterrent devices which should reduce cetacean bycatch.

“We recognise that bycatch and entanglement in any type of fishing gear can pose a risk to our iconic marine life and we remain committed to tackling this issue in our waters. We support good practice by the fishing industry and are pleased to see the level of support from fishers to trial novel solutions to reduce marine animal entanglements. In some cases, additional measures may be required to reduce instances of entanglements and bycatch of other marine species including marine mammals and seabirds. We will consider this further as part of our development of the Future Catching Policy, using a co-management approach.

“We take protection of the marine environment seriously and are clear that any form of dumping and other illegal activities are completely unacceptable. Legal obligations regarding the disposal of litter and fishing gear at sea are enforced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Marine Scotland Directorate officers can report illegal activity through an intelligence system to the MCA and vessels operating within Scottish waters are regularly reminded of their obligations under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Regulations. Vessels must also comply with Article 48 of the retained EU Regulation 1224/2009 (the Control Regulation) which makes provision regarding the retrieval of lost gear.”

In a second question Ms Wishart asked the Minister:

“To ask the Scottish Government what powers it has to ban gill net fishing from all or some Scottish waters, and what consideration it is giving to banning the practice of gill net fishing.”

The Minister replied:

“… gill netting is a legitimate form of fishing activity permitted within Scottish waters providing the relevant rules, regulations and technical standards are complied with.

“We know that a number of gillnet vessels operate in Scottish waters and we understand that additional spatial pressure can occur when vessels using different types of gear are operating in close proximity to one another. The Future Catching Policy consultation, which closed for responses on 7 June, sought views on possible solutions to this and we welcome the input from all stakeholders to help shape next steps.

“The Future Catching Policy is also intended to consider additional technical and spatial measures for all types of fishing vessels in order to reduce unwanted catches of fish and bycatch of sensitive marine species such as cetaceans. We are currently analysing the results from the consultation and considering policy options.”

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