Marine Scotland accused of mismanaging fishing

creel fishermen, creel, creels, pots, SCFF, Marine Scotland, fisheries, fishing

Marine Scotland has been accused of allowing “an environmental disaster” by mismanaging fishing and refusing to exclude trawlers from inshore areas where fishermen catch prawns.

A report, due to be released on 11 January by the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) – and seen by The Ferret – says that Marine Scotland‘s oversight of the inshore prawn sector has also destroyed thousands of Scottish jobs.

The SCFF also claims the public body tasked with overseeing Scotland’s fisheries is “partisan in support of nephrops [aka prawn and langoustine] trawler interests” and has misled the general public over prawn fishing.

The SCFF report – Marine Scotland’s Mismanagement of Scotland’s Inshore Nephrops Fishery – calls for a ban on trawlers from areas that could be profitably exploited by creelers.

“In other words, the exclusion of all nephrops trawlers from all creel areas,” the SCFF says. It is calling for a three mile limit to be reintroduced to prevent trawling in inshore waters off the west coast of Scotland.

The restriction existed for about a century and was only lifted to allow inshore trawling – now, mainly for prawns – in 1984.

The SCFF has claimed the reinstatement of the limit would lead to 450 additional creel boats and more than 700 new jobs.


But other fishing organisations dispute these claims. The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said there is “no evidence” that a three mile limit banning trawlers would improve sustainability or raise earnings in the creel fleet.

It was backed by the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association which said a 2017 report into the prawn sector concluded that all sectors of the fishing industry played a part “in sustaining the coastal communities through production of Scottish nephrops”.

The Scottish Government, on behalf of Marine Scotland, said it was committed to supporting the Scottish sector and had established a new working group in November.

The SCFF’s report says live prawns or langoustines, known in the industry as nephrops, are a “high quality Scottish ambassadorial product” which is “by far” the most important for the inshore sector.

Both trawlers and creel boats target prawns. Creel fishing involves laying dozens of pots on the seabed and collecting the catch later. Creel fishermen export virtually all of their catch still alive, mostly to Europe.

Trawlers drag a weighted net to disturb seabed sediment and herd langoustine into the net, as well as other non-target species.

The report says trawlers land whole, dead nephrops which sell for around £5,000 per tonne.


The SCFF claims creeling is “artisanal, producing a high value product” and the quayside liveweight price of around £13,000 per tonne reflects this.

It says trawling is an industrialised activity delivering a “product of much lesser value”. The greater part of the trawl is so damaged only their tails are kept, the report says. The remaining body parts, accounting for two thirds by weight, are dumped at sea.

“Tails sell for around £5,250 per tonne, so the price per tonne of tails actually killed – the liveweight price – is £1,750,” the report adds.

“Trawlers catch nearly 90 per cent of Scottish nephrops. Marine Scotland seems surprisingly unconcerned about a substantial proportion of a valuable Scottish natural resource being sold for £1,750 per liveweight tonne (as nephrops tails) or £5,000 (as whole nephrops), instead of £13,000 (as live langoustines).”

The report continues: “With prevailing prices and costs, each tonne caught by trawlers rather than creelers is resulting in fewer Scottish vessels, fewer Scottish crew jobs, less industry profits, less vibrant coastal communities and reduced supply of a Scottish ambassadorial export product.”

The longstanding tensions at sea between trawlers and creelers are also highlighted in the report. Some creel fishermen have claimed equipment has been damaged as a result of gear conflict – an issue previously reported by The Ferret.

SCFF says that Marine Scotland largely adopts a “hands-off” approach leaving fishermen to compete for seabed access.

Marine Scotland

According to the SCFF, this means trawlers have a “trump card” in what it describes as a “capricious access system” because they can tow away creels.

Creel vessels have no countervailing threat, the report says, claiming that trawlers can operate a form of “de facto area management serving their best interests”.

Last year the SCFF mounted a legal challenge to Marine Scotland over its rejection of a proposal for a creel only pilot fishery in the inner sound of Skye.

A judge has now ruled that ministers acted unlawfully in blocking the no-trawl scheme in a landmark legal judgement which could have wider implications.

SCFF’s new report cites this judicial review and says: “Marine Scotland is not just refusing to consider excluding all trawlers from all creel areas, it is refusing to consider excluding any trawler from any creel area. In fact, Marine Scotland is not even willing to consider a creel only pilot study.”

The SCFF also accuses Marine Scotland of failing to complete promised research and of using “incoherent results to mislead both the public and Scottish Ministers about the merits of the status quo”.

Creels and trawls cannot simultaneously exploit the same seabed area, argues the SCFF. It says that “creel only areas are the only sensible option”.

Read the full article Marine Scotland accused of creating ‘environmental disaster’ by fishing mismanagement at The Ferret.

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