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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 4 - Task Force on Gear Conflict

4.1 In direct response to representations from active fishermen, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead MSP, established the internal government Task Force on Gear Conflict. The Task Force was chaired independently and was set up to examine if the current arrangements for dealing with gear conflict were fit for purpose. The Task Force concluded its examination and reported to Ministers in mid-July. The report was discussed at IFMAC on 30 September 2014.

Task Force Findings

4.2 There seems little doubt that the current arrangements rely on the application of the criminal law alone to prevent gear conflict and deal with the perpetrators of gear vandalism and theft. This approach is not currently providing a satisfactory or effective solution. The Task Force noted that the challenge is to come up with solutions which are:

  • proportionate to the scale of the problems being experienced;
  • tailored to specific needs of different fishing communities around Scotland; and
  • have the broad support of the fishing industry as a whole.

4.3 While there is clearly an appetite among some creel fishermen for more radical measures (e.g. banning trawlers/dredgers from fishing within, say, 3 miles of the coast) others believe such moves are disproportionate and are unlikely to find favour with the industry as a whole. That said, such measures may find favour with those who argue that spatial measures can help contribute to wider objectives such as stock sustainability, encouraging other economically beneficial activities, and protecting the wider marine environment. It is therefore important that Marine Scotland does not look at gear conflict in isolation.

4.4 With this in mind, the Task Force proposed a twin-track approach to tackling the problem, combining:

  • enhanced measures to prevent incidents occurring in the first place; and
  • steps to improve the detection of deliberate acts of gear vandalism and theft and the enforcement of sanctions against those involved in such acts.

Scale of the problem

4.5 Most inshore fishermen experience gear conflict but very few receive any resolution from conflict incidents and this is accepted as commonplace despite the significant cost in gear repair, replacement and time denied from fishing. The intelligent reports to Marine Scotland Compliance, usually through local Fishery Offices, have amounted to over 40 reports during the summer period in 2014.

The Task Force recommendations

4.6 The Task Force's recommendations aim to prevent gear conflict and improve instances of detection.

Recommendation 1

Marine Scotland to explore the feasibility for bringing elements of voluntary codes of practice into the licensing system

Recommendation 2

Marine Scotland, in consultation with its Industry Partners should look more widely at the scope for licence changes to specifically address gear conflict within fisheries management. This would, therefore, bring the matter within the scope of Marine Scotland's enforcement and compliance remit. It is recognised that questions of proportionality and regulatory burden will be central to these considerations.

Recommendation 3

Marine Scotland in consultation with its industry partners and IFGs should consider the scope for piloting time/or spatial zones at gear conflict "black spots". In addition, it should consider whether license conditions need to be used to support the restricted areas or closures made under the Inshore Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1984.

Recommendation 4

That Marine Scotland considers how technology might be better used to support the gathering of evidence for gear conflict.

Recommendation 5

Marine Scotland to undertake targeted surveillance in areas where there is historically know to be gear conflict to inform enforcement improvements. Incidents of gear conflict would be reported to Police Scotland as usual.