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It has been proposed by the Scottish Government that the annual closure to protect Firth of Clyde cod spawning be continued in 2024 and 2025

Minister for Energy and the Environment, Gillian Martin MSP, Proposes Continued Closure to Protect Firth of Clyde Cod Spawning

Gillian Martin MSP, the Minister for Energy and the Environment, has issued a letter to Finlay Carson MSP, Chairman of the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee and Convener on the Firth of Clyde Cod Seasonal Spawning Closure.

The letter outlines the continuation of the spawning closure in the Firth of Clyde for the years 2024 and 2025.

The Firth of Clyde Cod Seasonal Spawning Closure has been in place since 2002, with the aim to safeguard the spawning cod and contribute to the recovery of the north-western cod stock in the areas.

In the letter, Minister Martin emphasised the Scottish government’s commitment to the long-term sustainability of cod, considering it an iconic Scottish stock.

The Sea Fish (Prohibition on Fishing) (Firth of Clyde) (No. 2) Order 2022, due for renewal in 2024, has been instrumental in enforcing the seasonal closure from 14 February to 30 April each year. The closure involves prohibiting most types of fishing activity in a designated area of the Firth of Clyde during the cod spawning season.

Minister Martin highlights the historical exemptions for Nephrops trawlers, creels, and scallop dredgers due to their low impact on cod populations. However, the inshore elements of the cod stock have shown little sign of recovery despite the ongoing seasonal closure.

The recent ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) advice for the north-western substock of northern shelf cod indicates a healthy recovering stock, with the biomass doubling the sustainable biomass threshold. The success is attributed to management measures, including selectivity measures and a restrictive Total Allowable Catch.

Considering the positive outlook for cod sustainability, Minister Martin proposes a continuation of the closure without exemptions for the years 2024 and 2025. The decision she said is based on the best available scientific evidence, indicating that any activity within 10 metres of the seabed has the potential to impact spawning activity.

To maximize protection for spawning cod, exemptions for Nephrops trawlers, creels, and scallop dredgers will be removed in the closure area. Minister Martin assures increased monitoring of closure areas during the spawning season to ensure compliance and gather relevant information.

While acknowledging that this decision may be unpopular within the fishing industry, Minister Martin emphasised what the Scottish government believes is the importance of striking the right balance between economic, social, and employment benefits and the need for a precautionary approach to fisheries management.

The proposal has been laid out in the Sea Fish (Prohibition On Fishing) (Firth Of Clyde) Order 2024, and Minister Martin expressed hope for the Committee’s support. The Marine Directorate will undertake a review of cod management measures, considering different approaches in inshore and offshore waters in light of recent ICES reports. Minister Martin and her officials remain open to providing evidence to the Committee if required.

This decision, Minister Martin said marks a continued effort by the Scottish government to ensure the long-term sustainability and recovery of cod stocks in the Firth of Clyde.

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