Marine Scotland have denied claims from Fishing Forward UK that local UK-registered vessels are targeted for inspections
Marine Scotland has reacted to concerns from the Fishing Forward UK group who believed that UK-registered fishing vessels were being unfairly targeted for boarding and inspections.
Records from Marine Scotland showed that between the start of January 2022 and the end of June 2022, a total of 178 fishing vessels were boarded by inspectors in Scottish waters. Out of the grand total of 178 the report shows that 150 of those were UK registered boats.
This led to concerns from Fishing Forward UK with spokesperson Alastair Inkster claiming there was “disproportionate boardings of locally owned vessels”.
The Fishing Daily contacted Marine Scotland and asked why there were so many boardings of UK-registered boats in Scottish waters. A Scottish Government spokesperson replied:
“Our boardings and inspections are undertaken following a rigorous risk assessed process in which vessel nationality is not a significant part.
“The UK fishing fleet accounts for approximately 80% of vessels actively fishing in Scottish waters, therefore the number of UK vessels boarded is always likely to be higher. In addition, all boardings by the inshore patrol vessels and a number undertaken by the offshore patrol vessels will be within territorial waters and are therefore unlikely to involve non-UK vessels. We regularly publish the numbers of vessels boarded by our marine protection crews.
“As part of full inspections, all vessels have their catch, gear, vessel documentation and transport documentation inspected, which is required under legislation. During 2022, Marine Scotland exceeded the NEAFC Scheme of Control and Enforcement Inspection requirement for non-UK vessel landings which were operating in the NEAFC Convention Area by 160%.”
The Shetland based campaign group also claim that local vessels are being discriminated against when landing their catch.
Alastair says, “One of our own vessels has been boarded twice recently and been monitored five times out of the last six landings and the skipper is fed up with it basically.
“These predominantly French and Spanish vessels landing into Ullapool Lochinver and Scrabster are never given a proper monitor as the boxes coming ashore direct into a refrigerated lorry have no labels on them with species or weight so it’s impossible to know what tonnages they’re putting ashore.
“On rare occasions the fishery officers do turn up but it’s basically for a photo shoot as they never eyeball the actual fish species in the boxes.
“As you may be aware these unmonitored catches has a detrimental effect on the scientific assessment of stocks as our scientists don’t have any accurate tonnages being caught by these vessels so use ‘precautionary quotas’ on most stocks which in turn results in all vessels having a reduced quota on most species.
“We need 100% monitoring of these vessels for this reason either by a proper monitor or these vessels made to land through a local fish market where everything landed can be verified as accurate.
“We need some way of cross checking what these vessels are landing.
“These vessels have to submit landing figures to the NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Consortium) before they’re authorised to land by the NEAFC but the strange thing is this Consortium are authorising unmonitored landings on a daily basis. Which to us appears strange.
“Our group Fishing Forward U.K. was set up to try and get some sanity back into the management of this as we feel it’s not being managed but basically a free for all in northern waters.”
Replying to The Fishing Daily, the Government spokesperson said that:
- Vessels operating within the NEAFC Convention Area are subject to management measures set out in the NEAFC Scheme of Control and Enforcement and the management measures of the coastal state within the waters they are fishing.
- In line with NEAFC Port State Control requirements, prior to entry into port, the flag state must verify the catch on board and pre-notify the coastal state in which the fish is to be landed. The coastal state into which the fish is being landed is required to either authorise or decline the use of port services.