In December 2015, the Cabinet Secretary announced recommendations on dealing with gear conflict. These included looking at good practice and possible legislative changes to the marking of static gear inside 12 nautical miles.
Marine Scotland held discussions with industry working groups, formed specifically to consider options on this topic. Although the majority of the organisations, associations and individuals who attended the group meetings did support the proposals some parties did express concerns.
These proposals were therefore consulted on from November 2016 to February 2017 to give all fishermen the opportunity to consider and comment on them.
Whilst overall there was support for the proposals as set out it was clear that in some circumstances the proposals, if adhered to, might cause gear loss in adverse weather or during strong tides.
Marine Scotland will therefore issue guidelines which set out best practice for marking static gear. The guidelines strike a balance to ensure gear is visible and reduce the risk of accidental gear conflict. However, a number of fishermen may wish to mark gear at variance to the guidelines due to local conditions, either at certain times of the year or in particular geographic positions.
It is clear that some fishermen are marking gear using inappropriate equipment that result in poor visibility and/or poorly secured marking equipment. Marine Scotland will therefore introduce regulations which will ban the use of equipment not manufactured for the purpose of marking fishing gear. This will outlaw the use of objects such as plastic milk cartons and netted footballs.
We will also introduce regulations requiring all unlicensed fishermen to mark their gear with a unique reference number which will be issued on request by the local Marine Scotland Fishery Office. The regulations will also require licensed fishermen to mark their gear with the PLN.