“Clyde fishermen are not mercenaries. Killing fish for little or no profit is not in their make-up.”
Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government has once again been accused of siding with environmental non-governmental organisations over Clyde fishermen who have tried to work with authorities in the preservation of fish stocks.
Fishing communities on the Clyde are upset with the news that Marine Scotland has set the total allowable catch for herring in 2022 at 466 tonnes, a 20% reduction last year’s quota.
The decision came after a three-week consultation which was held in July this year, but some Clyde fishermen claim their interests were not represented and instead eNGOs used the opportunity to seek a further reduction in the Clyde herring quota.
Marine Scotland says that during the consultation, a total of 16 responses were received, of which 15 were unique and one was a duplicate response that had been submitted twice by the same individual. Respondents to the consultation were asked whether they were replying as an individual or on behalf of an organization. Nine responses received were from organisations, and six responses were received from individuals.
Marine Scotland says that of responses received, four responses supported an approach of a rollover of the 2021 TAC at 583 tonnes, of which three were submitted by organisations and one by an individual. Two responses supported a 20% reduction in the 2021 TAC, both of which were supported by individuals. Eight responses suggested that a zero or de minus TAC should be applied for 2022, six of which were submitted by organisations and two by individuals. And one response submitted twice by the same individual suggested that the TAC should be increased to 648 tonnes.
Marine Scotland noted the following key points were made in responses to the consultation, as reasons to reduce the TAC:
- Uncertainty in the current knowledge of the stock was cited by many respondents as a reason to reduce or cease fishing, until more robust scientific data is obtained.
- Many respondents raised concerns with the state of the Clyde herring stock, noting in particular the predominance of fish below minimum landing size, and the lack of evidence of stock recovery despite low landings in recent years. These respondents therefore focused on the importance of allowing time for the stock to recover to a better state.
- Two respondents noted that the low landings in recent years indicated a lack of dependency on the fishery.
- Some respondents suggested increased sampling and/or monitoring of vessels participating in the fishery, to improve knowledge of the stock. One response suggested that a request should be made to ICES for a full stock evaluation.
- Some respondents suggested that there should be a greater focus on developing an ecosystem-based approach to management of herring in the Clyde and the wider west coast.
The following key points were made in responses to the consultation, as reasons to rollover or increase the TAC:
- Some respondents stated that the TAC should be based on the best available scientific information, and that the information currently available gave no scientific justification to reduce the TAC.
- Some respondents raised concerns over a perceived ‘use it or lose it’ policy.
- Some respondents suggested that a reduction in the TAC this year would set a precedent for year-on-year decreases.
- One respondent suggested that, due to the reduction in the TAC in recent years, the stock should be in a better state, and therefore the TAC should be increased.
Marine Scotland said that they found significant uncertainty with regards to the state of the Clyde herring stock, and that the situation this year is an exception to what they have seen in recent years, blaming the breakdown of their research vessel for not being able to have more data to analyse.
On setting the quota they said, “Taking into account the best available scientific information and the views submitted through the consultation process, the TAC for 2022 will be set at 466 tonnes,” following the principle of a “precautionary buffer”.
The news of the reduction in quota led one fisherman to tweet, “The reduction is due to a flawed consultation not allowing fishermen, who were not made aware of it time to respond. The reduction is based on ill-informed people claiming no landings means no stock. Instead, no landing is due to fishermen refusing to kill them (herring) for crap money. The haulage cost makes it unviable.
“As far as I am aware, infrastructure for herring no longer exists on the west coast. Haulage costs to the northeast of Scotland makes it unviable to land them. Clyde fishermen are not mercenaries. Killing fish for little or no profit is not in their make-up.”
Kenneth McNabb, a Clyde fisherman tweeted in reply, “As one of the herring catchers I can assure you there are herring in the Clyde. The reason we stopped over the last 5 years is down to economics. The price plus the transport to get them to the NE makes it unviable. That’s fact not the fiction that MS has published.
“This fiasco has been brought upon us by campaign groups just the same as the cod fiasco earlier this year. It makes you wonder who’s actually in charge in this country it looks to me like the Green Party that nobody voted for are pulling the strings.”
The Clyde Fishermen’s Association are critical of the enriched eNGOs replied:
“We were promised “lessons would be learned” from the Clyde Cod Box. They certainly weren’t. How much more of this can slide by unchallenged? The detrimental impact on regional small-scale fisheries of these unscientific decisions can’t keep being shrugged off.
“Twice in a few months we have witnessed the same campaign organisations cause a serious impact. Often these organisations aren’t even connected to local fishing communities, regional area or even country. Feels the intention could be wearing the already limited resources of small-scale fisheries down.”
by Oliver McBride