Scottish Fisheries Minister, Mairi Gougeon, says the Scottish Government is looking for Westminster's intervention on fuel cost crisis Cabinet Secretary, Mairi Gougeon has said the Scottish government has no plans to introduce a 3nm limit bottom-trawling licencing unlawful fishing scalloping offences Cornwall

The Scottish Government faces scrutiny on scallop dredging licences following reports of environmental harm in priority marine habitats

Scottish Government Faces Scrutiny Over Scallop Dredging Licenses Amid Environmental Concerns

The Scottish Government’s licensing of scallop dredging activities has come under intense scrutiny following reports of environmental harm, particularly to priority marine habitats such as herring spawning grounds off North Erradale and Gairloch.

In a recent parliamentary session, Ariane Burgess, MSP for Highlands and Islands (Green), questioned the government’s stance on these licenses in light of the damage reported.

Protecting Marine Ecosystems

Mairi Gougeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, responded by underscoring the government’s commitment to protecting marine environments. “The area near Gairloch, where herring spawning recently occurred, falls mostly within the proposed Port Erradale priority marine features management area,” Gougeon stated. “We are prioritising protection for these priority marine features, as advised by NatureScot, as part of a broader package of inshore marine protected areas and fisheries management measures.”


Environmental Concerns and Legal Obligations

Burgess highlighted the criticisms from conservation groups like the National Trust and the Marine Conservation Society, which accuse the government of missing deadlines to tackle overfishing and climate breakdown impacts. She stressed the need for a swift transition to ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Gougeon acknowledged the court ruling from a recent judicial review that mandates government decisions align with the national marine plan. “We are working to ensure that our licensing process complies with this judgment,” she said, emphasizing the ongoing work on priority marine features and marine protected areas. Gougeon reiterated the high priority of putting in place necessary measures to protect these areas as soon as possible, despite the complexities involved.

Call for Collaborative Solutions

Rhoda Grant, MSP for Highlands and Islands (Labour), proposed collaborative efforts with the fishing community to implement practical measures that would allow for the quick closure of fish spawning areas during critical periods to protect juvenile stocks. Gougeon agreed on the importance of such measures and highlighted ongoing strategic work with NatureScot on priority marine features and spawning grounds. “We are taking a strategic approach to herring spawning and spawning grounds, which will inform our decisions on protection,” Gougeon explained.


Looking Forward

The session also touched on other fisheries management issues, including a squid derogation pilot project in Orkney, highlighted by Jamie Halcro Johnston, MSP for Highlands and Islands (Conservative). Gougeon confirmed ongoing discussions with fisheries interests in Orkney and expressed a desire to progress proposals swiftly, though she could not provide a definitive timeline at the moment.

The Scottish Government remains under pressure to balance marine industry viability with biodiversity preservation, as stakeholders await further developments in fisheries management policies.

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