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PROMOTING BEST PRACTICE FOR INSHORE FISHERIES: A CONSULTATION ON MEASURES TO TACKLE GEAR CONFLICT IN SCOTTISH INSHORE WATERs

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Section 2 - Background on the Consultation Process

The purpose of this consultation document is to seek the views of those who actively prosecute inshore fishing opportunities within Scotland; particularly those who have experienced gear vandalism and theft or are concerned about gear conflict. Responses to this consultation will be used to inform policy development in this area.

The consultation will last for 12 weeks and responses are invited by 6 February.

The views and suggestions received in consultation responses will be analysed and presented to the Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (IFMAC) the national co-management body for discussion and endorsement of next steps.

Please send your returns or address any queries to: gearconflictconsultation@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Or

Kerrie Campbell

Inshore Fisheries and Coastal Communities
Area 1B South
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

If you have any queries please contact the Inshore Fisheries and Communities Branch on 0131 244 4982

The Scottish Government may make the responses to this consultation paper available to the public and to the Scottish Parliament. We will acknowledge responses. If you respond to this consultation you are requested to complete the enclosed respondent information form attached at Annex A. This will ensure that we handle your responses appropriately.

A consultation report will be published by Marine Scotland.

Background on the Consultation Process

What is the aim of this consultation?

2.1 This consultation is about how the Scottish Government can address gear conflict, which is recognised as falling into the realm of possible vandalism and theft. While gear interactions can be resolved amicably on a voluntary basis within inshore fisheries there may be instances of criminal activity. It is a widely held view that the current arrangements for resolving gear conflict are often ineffective at securing a fair resolution for the victims of illegal acts. Anecdotally, there are suggestions that gear conflict incidents are becoming more frequent, or at least that fishermen are becoming less tolerant of such incidents and more prepared to report irresponsible operators or frequent offenders.

2.2 The aim of this consultation is to build upon the report produced by the Task Force on Gear Conflict which was presented to the Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (IFMAC) on 29 September 2014, a copy of which can be found on the Marine Scotland website http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Sea-Fisheries/InshoreFisheries/GearConflict

2.3 The report noted various shortcomings of current processes and recognised that Marine Scotland was best placed to explore possible options for change. These are the subject of this consultation, which also provides the opportunity for interested parties to propose relevant solutions.

2.4 This is the first time that the Scottish Government has held such a national consultation on the issue of gear conflict. Proposals for the implementation of possible measures are discussed. However, given the complexity of issues, the criminal nature of activities and the need for firm evidence it may be that further discussions with industry and additional consultation are required. In addressing the issue of gear conflict it is essential to understand whether national measures are required or if local/regional solutions would be most effective.

Scottish Government Considerations

2.5 Marine Scotland supports the use of appropriate fishing gear by inshore fishermen around the coast of Scotland regardless of gear type provided it is legal and is used subject to environmental criteria for stock or nature conservation purposes. Deliberate acts of gear vandalism and theft at sea are illegal and cannot be tolerated. Such acts may be from fishing vessels, merchant vessels or leisure craft and are carried out on a fishing vessel's gear. Where incidents do occur there needs to be a robust process in place that can deal with those responsible in a proportionate and dissuasive manner. Those agencies responsible for gear conflict need to have the best tools available to help them achieve these aims.

2.6 The Scottish Government's principal aim is to identify a balanced and effective policy for resolving gear conflict. The key issue is to ensure proportionality of response to protect the interests of individual vessels while not imposing unnecessarily restrictive practices on the whole fleet or sector. Marine Scotland is acutely aware of the significant impact gear damage or loss can have on an individual's business. In consequence it is important that those individuals responsible for gear conflict are the subject of enforcement action. Such an approach requires to be balanced against the fact that the vast majority of fishing vessel operators act respectfully of other fishing operations and avoid gear interactions wherever possible.

Options for a new policy

2.7 With any change in policy the Scottish Government will need to take account of the cost of implementing and enforcing any new proposals. Bringing in fisheries management or control rules to regulate gear conflict will also bring an additional enforcement burden. The options proposed in this consultation are categorised as:

  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Deterrence

2.8 Several questions are posed in this consultation:

Question 1: Should spatial management measures be considered to deal with gear conflict?

Question 2: If yes, should spatial separation be considered on a national basis or only in gear conflict "hotspots"?

Question 3: Should appropriate technology be considered to monitor all vessel locations to the degree capable of providing a level of proof to identify gear conflict?

Question 4: Do you support the idea of a centrally/regionally managed website to host information on creel locations?

4(a) Would you commit to providing information on creel locations, and for it to be in the public domain?

4(b) Do you believe fishermen would use such a website?

Question 5: Do you support the introduction of administrative restrictions on vessels who engage in deliberate gear conflict?

Question 6: Do you believe administrative penalties can be effective?

Question 7: Would you like to see a national code of conduct on spatial interaction?

Question 8: Would you like to see regional codes of conduct on spatial interaction?

Question 9: What other measures can strengthen Codes of Conduct?

Question 10: Do you believe there should be prescriptive rules about the marking of gear within 12 nm?

10(a) If so, what should they be?

Question 11: Should these measures be extended to all fishing vessels, including unlicensed operators?

Question 12: Do you support the introduction of some kind of vessel tracking system for under 12 metre vessels?

Question 13: Do you have any comments on the type of system which could be introduced?

Question 14: Do you support the introduction of creel tagging and mandatory reporting of creel locations?

Question 15: Do you have any other comments to make regarding measures to tackle gear conflict?