SFF attacks campaign for three-mile mobile gear ban
‘No evidence’ for claimed benefits
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has hit back at green groups and some creel fishermen who are mounting a sustained campaign for mobile gear to be banned within Scotland’s three-mile limit, reports Tim Oliver.
The federation says there is no evidence that such a ban would improve sustainability or raise earnings in the creel fleet.
In a new 16-page paper on the issue, ‘The Three-Mile Limit: History and Facts’, the federation says that those pushing for a limit are taking a protectionist line, ‘keeping the grounds inside the three-mile limit open for only one type of fishing, [which would] only suit those who fish that gear’.
It says that the consequence would be that other types of fishers would be displaced, ‘but not on the basis of science that demonstrates this is necessary for the right protection of sensitive environments and features’.
The SFF says that a three-mile ban is, in fact, opposed by a majority of fishermen across all sectors.
“Due to the evolution of fisheries management over the past 50 years, the fleet structure now is vastly different than when the three-mile ban was originally rescinded. Because of this, the SFF believes a three-mile ban will not help sustainability, and that conservation needs to be dealt with by evidence through the Marine Scotland and stakeholders process using the strongly established MPA and PMF [Priority Marine Features] framework.”
The federation says that its paper sets out ‘a fair and sensible approach’ to the question: “Is there a need for a three-mile limit?”
SFF policy officer Malcolm Morrison said: “All fishing methods, mobile and static, will impact on the environment in some way, just as navigation, tourism, offshore energy generation or even just weather do. This is a fact that everyone needs to accept as a compromise in the wider concept of securing food.
“If areas or features are found to need extra protection, the SFF welcomes their inclusion in the existing management frameworks, based on objective evidence.”
Malcolm Morrison added that an expansion of the creel sector, as things stand, with the lack of rigorous science, would not be sensible. Markets would suffer, and losing the trawl catch would necessitate a tenfold increase in creels in the water – from an estimated 1.2m to 12m – as well as requiring an adjustment of price differentials.
“Given the lack of verified science needed for responsible fisheries management, a lot of new research would be required to bring the database for the creel fishery up to the standard required by ICES.
“There is no basis in the evidence for the environmental NGOs’ sustainability claims. There are so many unknowns – stock status, exact number of creels deployed, soak time, the number of ‘ghost’ creels on the seabed.”
He highlighted a 2017 report into the Nephrops industry in Scotland which found no evidence that creeling was more economically beneficial than trawling.
“In fact, as the same study highlighted, the diversity of the sector is well suited to the geography of Scotland.
“The SFF questions whether a three-mile limit would solve gear conflict. Co-existence is much better than exclusion. Any ban would simply move the problem just outside the limit.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “Sustainability is at the heart of our proposed approach to managing Scotland’s fisheries in the future. Through our network of MPAs, controls of fishing gear and catch limits, we are already supporting a range of measures to protect fish stocks and the environment.
“We will continue to work with all fisheries stakeholders to explore the potential to further protect nursery areas and areas where there are juvenile fish, including in inshore waters.”
The full SFF paper can be accessed at: bit.ly/2Hg1dm9
Green coalition pushes for trawling ban
The Our Seas coalition in Scotland is campaigning strongly for mobile gear to be banned in Scottish inshore waters. It has organised a petition calling on the Scottish government to reinstate ‘a coastal limit on bottom trawl and dredge fishing’.
The coalition of over 60 environmental groups includes angling bodies, ecotourism firms, scallop divers, coastal communities, salmon conservation boards and the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF).
The SCFF produced its own paper, ‘The Three-Mile Limit – the case for a sustainable fishery’, which focuses on the west coast of Scotland.
Alistair ‘Bally’ Philp, who wrote the document, said that much of the SFF’s document was ‘demonstrably nonsense’. Commenting for the SCFF, he said the SFF’s claim that there was no evidence that a three-mile mobile-gear ban would improve sustainability or raise earnings in the creel fleet was ‘surprising’, because the federation also claimed that ‘losing the trawl catch would necessitate a tenfold increase in creels’.
He said that the SCFF disputes the tenfold increase in creels figure as ‘nonsense’ – but if there were such an increase, there would presumably be a corresponding increase in the earnings of the creel fleet. “Yet they argue this would not raise earnings in the creel fleet,” he said.
The SCFF document argued that by landing more creel-caught Nephrops, either more fishermen could be employed without increasing overall landings, or the same number of fishermen would catch fewer Nephrops.
“If we reinstated the three-mile limit (or a close variation), we could easily employ twice the fishermen on Scotland’s west coast and generate twice the revenue, whilst extracting fewer prawns than at present, and all with a smaller environmental footprint,” said Alistair Philp.
“No one ever proposed that we replace all Scotland’s trawlers, or all the trawler landings with creel-caught prawns, yet the SFF’s paper appears predicated on this ludicrous assumption.
“They are making our argument for us, as they are saying we could either employ many more fishermen for the same catch, or the same amount of fishermen for only a fraction (one-tenth) of the catch. Either way, they undermine the proposition that there is no benefit.”
He added that there is ‘much we can take issue with’ in the SFF paper. For example, it says that the three-mile limit was ‘never intended to be a mechanism for fisheries management’, yet the document also says that the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act banned trawling within three miles around most of the coast due to ‘concerns of declining catches’.
“To most rational people, the concept of fisheries management would relate to ‘concerns of declining catches’,” he said.
Alistair Philp said there was ‘little merit in dissecting this paper any further’, as anyone could work out that ‘if you sold more of your nation’s prawns at a higher value and employed more fishermen to do so, and did this with a smaller environmental footprint, there would be benefits’.