Patrol ships hope to scupper illegal scallop dredging

Scallop scallops dredging

Marine protection vessels are being launched to protect Scotland’s fragile seabeds from illegal fishing incursions, including scallop dredging.

The enforcement ships are being sent on patrol amid concerns about the destructive impact some forms of fishing are having on the environment.

A network of marine protection areas (MPAs) was created by the Scottish government in 2014 but a freedom of information request to Marine Scotland showed that there had been 78 reports of suspected incursions inside their boundaries between 2015 and May this year, with only one conviction secured.

Conservation agencies are particularly concerned about scallop dredging, which can have a big impact on vulnerable habitats and species.

Enforcement

Marine Scotland also confirmed that up to May 22, 2017, only one case of illegal fishing had been investigated by the state agency, resulting in a £2,000 fixed penalty being issued to an unnamed operator.

Open Seas, a Scottish conservation charity, said it was deeply concerned by the findings. Nick Underdown, head of operations for the charity, said: “[We] condemn instances of illegal and damaging fishing, but those taking place within MPAs are particularly alarming.

“The Scottish government must prioritise and properly resource action to stop such environmental vandalism. The few areas that are off limits to scallop dredging are often fragile seabed habitats that be can be destroyed by a single dredge tow. Such illegal practices risk undermining market confidence in Scotland’s seafood and discourage people from serving it on their dinner plates.”

The penalty fine that was issued for illegal fishing related to incidents in the Firth of Clyde, while other incursions are believed to have taken place within the Firth of Lorne off Mull, South Arran and Wester Ross in the northwest Highlands.

It is not mandatory for boats of 12 metres or under to have vessel monitoring systems fitted, so it is difficult to detect and prevent them from entering protected waters.

Read the full article at The Times.

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