Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon has defended the Clyde Cod Closure saying that scientists, fishers and environmental organisations had been consulted

Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon has defended the Clyde Cod Closure saying that scientists, fishers and environmental organisations had been consulted

Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon has defended the Clyde Cod Closure in parliament last Thursday, 03 February.

Ms Gougean said that scientists, fishers and environmental organisations had been consulted before the decision was taken, but despite this claim the fishing industry has reacted badly to the decision.

The seasonal spawning closure in the Firth of Clyde will be in place from 14 February – 30 April and for the next two closures,  in 2022 and 2023, changes have been introduced that will see nephrops trawlers, creels and scallop dredgers included in the list of fishing methods excluded.

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The news of the exclusion has hit the industry in the Firth of Clyde hard with the Clyde Fishermen’s Association and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation slamming the decision.

Last week, Finlay Carson the Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries questioned the Rural Secretary in parliament telling the Minister that the decision was driving young fishermen from the industry and that trust has been lost between. He said:

“There is huge potential in the fishing communities around the Scottish coast, but that needs joined-up thinking. We need investment in neutral science and work within the environment that allows good management as well as permitting fishing businesses to plan development.

“Sadly, last week, two young Scottish skippers revealed that they are now re-evaluating a long-term career in the wake of the embarrassing boorach surrounding the Clyde cod closure announcement.

“What plans does the cabinet secretary have to promote stability, co-management, capacity building and, most importantly, trust in order to deliver sustainability and investment in the fishing industry?”

Defending the decision Ms Gougeon replied:

“The course of action that we have taken since the closure was announced is the right one. We have listened to our stakeholders. We got scientists, fishers and environmental organisations together to try to chart a way forward. That is how we should continue to work when we deal with such vital issues. I do not know whether the member would prefer us not to have listened and taken action on the back of the information that we received and the discussion that we had with our stakeholders.

“I believe that the position that we have taken is the right one. We are keen to work with our stakeholders as we move forward and look to introduce measures such as highly protected marine areas.”

Kenneth Gibson SNP from Cunninghame North questioned the wisdom behind adding other fishing methods to the closure, whilst previous closures had done little to help the situation. He asked::

“Since its introduction, the annual closure of the Clyde spawning ground has included exemptions to allow nephrops trawlers and creels and scallop dredgers to continue to fish. However, there will be no exemptions to the imminent Clyde closure from 14 February to 30 April because exemptions did not lead to fish stock recovery. Will the cabinet secretary tell us what positive impact she anticipates that albeit temporary closure will have on future fish stocks?”

Ms Gougeon replied to the question by saying:

“Stocks have so far shown very little sign of recovery under the previous measures. That is why the measures that we announced to increase protection are required. The scientific evidence that we have shown that spawning cod can be disturbed by any fishing gear that operates within 10m of the seabed. Because fishing methods such as trawling, dredging and creeling, which were allowed under the previous exemptions, all operate within 10m of the seabed, removing those methods will significantly reduce the likelihood of spawning cod being disturbed.

“During the closure, we will increase monitoring of activity and catches to assess, in particular, whether and where cod are being caught outside the closure area and whether they are mature enough to spawn. We intend to hold a meeting with stakeholders at the end of the 2022 closure to reflect on the effectiveness and practicality of the revised closures.”

by Oliver McBride

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Gougeon defends Clyde Cod Closure despite hardship for fishermen

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