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Consultation on Proposed Sites to Host Inshore Fisheries Pilots 2017 - Outcome Report


Proposal 3: Orkney Scallop Management

This proposal involves introducing distinct scallop management measures in the six nautical miles around the Orkney isles. The full proposal form can be viewed at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00525816.pdf and an overview is provided in the consultation document.

The consultation document asked seven questions in relation to the proposal (Questions 6 to 12).

Question 6: Do you agree that the proposal for the management of scallops around the Orkney Isles should be taken forward by Marine Scotland as described?

There were 43 responses to this proposal, with 29 (67%) supporting it and 14 (33%) opposed to it.

There was strong support for the proposal from fishermen and other individuals based in Orkney. The environmental group Open Seas also supported this proposal.

Those who did not think that the Orkney proposal should be taken forward as a pilot included both the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation and WWF Scotland. A number of unsupportive responses also appeared to be from individuals associated with the dredged scallop fishery in the area, whose fishing activity would be impacted.

Themes from supportive responses

I. Reduce fishing pressure by larger vessels

Many responses to this question, particularly those that appeared to originate from respondents within the islands, highlighted that the proposed measures would limit effort by larger vessels in the area to the benefit of smaller vessels.

"More areas around our coast need to be protected from the massive catching ability of the largest of vessels that prosecute this fishery. It is only sensible to manage and protect an area locally like this for everyone's benefit. Small vessels don't have the ability to fish 24/7 and it's is each person's right to decide what level of business they plan to run…" [Individual response]

II. Inform Future Management

Responses also highlighted the potential of the proposal to inform future management.

"Clearly this is a proactive approach to address increasing F [fishing mortality] in this fishery, something we support…we would recommend that the pilot must be accompanied by a coherent and robust approach to assessing stock health such that the effectiveness of the proposed approach in addressing F may be recorded." [Open Seas]

Themes from opposing responses

I. Limited effectiveness of the proposed measures

A number of respondents expressed concern regarding the effectiveness of the proposed management measures.

"We sympathise with the community of Orkney being subject to the vagaries of the boom and bust nature of dredge scallop fisheries and we are acutely aware of the impacts of local fisheries management being hampered by nomadic vessels. However we do not believe that the applicants proposed fisheries management measures go any where near far enough to achieve the desired outcome of securing a sustainable scallop fishery in the Orkney inshore waters." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

II. Impact on larger vessels

Some respondents also felt the objective of the measures was to preclude or restrict activity by larger vessels based outside Orkney to the benefit of the local Orkney fleet. This was often associated with the potential health and safety implications of larger vessels having to fish outside the Orkney six nautical mile boundary.

"Forcing boats into open waters in poorer weather to continue to make a living." [Individual response]

III. Opposed scallop dredging in inshore waters

A third group of responses recorded their opposition to dredge scallop fishing in Scottish inshore waters due to its impact on the marine environment. It is important to point out that many of those who took this view repeatedly stated their objection in response to each question posed in relation to this proposal. Two examples of typical responses are given below:

"This proposal seems to be an attempt to hoodwink the reader into thinking this is a reasonable proposal. It is not in any way reasonable. There appears to be little attempt to reduce the impact of dredging. The proposal will do little more than stall and prolong the use of this extremely destructive method of fishing to the detriment of the environment and perception of the fishing industry in general." [Individual response]

"There should be no dredging anywhere near the inshore with its important habitats and associated species. Whilst highly selective and sustainable alternatives exist (diving) there is no need for dredging." [Individual Response]

Question 7: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of the introduction of a minimum landing size of 110 mm for king scallops landed into the Orkney Isles?

Positive Impacts

I. Stock

The most commonly cited impact was the potential for a positive stock impact.

"Returned scallops will have time to breed producing greater numbers and a boost to the species." [Individual response]

II. Market Benefits/Economic Benefits

A positive market impact was also mentioned in a number of responses and very often linked to the positive stock impact.

"Larger scallop landing size can only encourage a better market and increased numbers of spawning juvenile scallops." [Individual response]

"As a former scallop diver I fully endorse the increasing of minimum landing sizes across many species as a way of increasing the overall efficiency of the use of any stock and allowing younger specimens more time to breed while getting better prices at market for larger specimens." [Individual response]

Negative Impact

I. Economic Impact

Responses commented that increasing the minimum landing size of king scallops may result in a negative economic impact, with some calling for data on the impact of such a measure. However, many commented that any initial reduction would be offset by longer term benefits.

"In short term it will be difficult but the long term benefits of increased spat from leaving maturer scallops on the seabed will be worth it." [Individual response]

II. Difficulty in ensuring compliance

Two responses raised compliance concerns related to having different minimum landing sizes in operation in neighbouring areas and one questioned the fairness of having different landing sizes around the Scottish coast.

"The SCFF fully support the idea of raising MLS to 110 mm, however we note that any national disparity in legal Scallop size could lead to some operators having advantageous access to markets and it may be hard to regulate the different catches once on board a vessel which fishes both within and without the proposed pilot area." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

III. Will not reduce fishing effort

A number of responses took the opportunity to state that increasing the MLS of king scallops would not reduce the environmental impact of the fishery and or questioned the survivability of scallops returned to the sea after dredging.

"This will do very little to reduce the impact of dredging. The simple act of destructively ploughing the seabed with steel teeth leaves little undamaged and it is likely that many small scallops returned to the sea will be damaged or their habitat sufficiently damaged to leave them open to predation." [Individual response]

Question 8: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of restricting vessels to no more than 10 dredges in total when fishing for scallops within 6 nautical miles of the Orkney Isles?

Positive Impacts

Three clear positive impacts of limiting dredge numbers emerged from responses:

I. Benefits to scallop stock / wider marine environment

Positive benefits to the scallop stock or wider marine environment were most often highlighted in responses.

"…less dredge area should mean it is easier for the sea bed to recover as more towing is required to cover the same area and therefore more missed areas will arise between the narrower dredged areas." [Individual response]

II. Benefit to smaller vessels

Many responses distinguished between larger dredged vessels capable of towing a greater number of dredges and whichtend to have greater facility to travel further afield to target king scallops, and smaller vessels restricted to a greater degree by the distance they can travel and weather conditions.

"The fishing effort on these relatively sheltered inshore waters by these large highly efficient 24/7 boats would be greatly reduced leading to a more stable and sustainable fishery for the smaller inshore day boats." [Individual response]

III. Take pressure off other fisheries

A few responses, which seemed mainly to originate from the Orkney area, stated that a positive impact of the proposed restriction would be additional fishing opportunities for Orkney's inshore vessels currently fishing for other species. Presumably vessels currently fishing for species other than king scallops could target the fishery as a result of the reduction in effort by larger vessels.

Negative Impacts

I. Disproportionate impact on large vessels

The loss of fishing opportunity to vessels routinely fishing more than 10 dredges per side was the negative impact most frequently cited by respondents. Some went further and stated that the measure was discriminatory / protectionist in nature, as it put vessels based in Orkney at an advantage.

"Restricting the amount of dredges seems more like protectionism from large visiting vessels of smaller dredgers as opposed to protection of the scallop grounds." [Individual response]

"Unfair rule which discriminates on men that have invested in larger vessels to provide a safer work platform for their crew." [Individual response]

Others, though noting the impact on larger vessels, suggested that any impact would be offset by fishing opportunities available to these vessels elsewhere.

"Larger vessels may not be happy but they can go to places I can't go to with my smaller vessel and I only use a total of 5 dredges." [Individual response]

II. Questionable / Negligible Environmental Impact

Many respondents used the opportunity to highlight the environmental impact of mechanical dredging, questioning whether any environmental benefit would arise, with some warning that restricting the activity of larger vessels may not result in a reduction of dredging effort.

"We support any measure which reduces the damage from dredge fisheries within inshore waters and in principle support the aims of the applicants. We are however sceptical as to whether reducing the amount of dredges per vessel will indeed result in less dredging in any given area." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

III. Other positive impacts

Other negatives highlighted included: health and safety concerns; the impact on other fishing grounds; and the cost to fishermen of having to purchase new equipment, such as tow bars.

Question 9: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of prohibiting vessels of more than 17 metres from fishing within 6 nautical miles of the Orkney Isles?

Positive Impacts

Two clear positives were identified by respondents: a benefit to inshore / local vessels, and stock / environmental benefits.

I. Benefit to inshore / local vessels

"The largest of this type of vessel are really destructive to the stock. They are rarely stopped by weather and have the ability to fish when they want." [Individual response]

II. Stock / environmental benefits

"I see this as a logical step in the evolution of our fisheries, getting away from larger boats to increase the efficiency and selectiveness of fishing methods utilising smaller vessels with lower impact and better spread of the wealth from the stocks to benefit the fragile coastal communities." [Individual response]

Negative Impacts

I. Impact on vessels over 17 metres in length

Responses highlighted the loss of fishing opportunity / economic impact on vessels over 17 metres in length, with some stating that the management measure was protectionist. Displacement of fishing effort and health and safety implications were also cited.

"This element of the proposal appears more like protectionism (from visiting vessels) than an attempt to make the local vessels more sustainable." [Individual response]

II. May not necessarily reduce effort

Again a number of responses took the opportunity to state that there may be no potential benefit accruing from the proposal, as there may be no reduction in dredged effort or even that scallop effort may increase.

"Furthermore there is no suggestion of a method of controlling effort so the likely outcome would be more smaller boats exploiting the same or more effort with no positive environmental benefits." [Individual response]

Question 10: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of prohibiting vessels from using or carrying on-board more than two tow bars with a combined overall length, or a single tow bar or beam with an overall length of more than 6.20 metres, or more than a total of 10 scallop dredges or 2 x 4.4 metre beams within 6 nautical miles of the Orkney Isles?

Limiting the permitted bar length is a technical restriction often used in scallop fisheries to aid compliance with dredge number restrictions. Given the technical nature of the question the range of answers to this question was more limited. There was also a great deal of similarity to the comments provided in response to questions eight and nine. A number of respondents did highlight the potential compliance benefits arising from a tow bar length restriction.

Enforcement benefits

"Fishermen often cheat and will take off dredges when they see a cruiser coming, even when they are hauling, so everything needs to be done to make the rules tight and not easy to get round. Rules need to be full proof." [Individual response]

"It will make enforcement of the new regulations easier and more effective." [Individual response]

Question 11: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of the introduction of a minimum landing size of 64 mm for queen scallops landed into the Orkney Isles?

Positive Impact

I. Environmental Impact

Respondents commented on the positive impact that increasing the minimum landing size could have on the stock. As with other fisheries, a minimum landing size is set to allow for individuals to have the opportunity to mature; increasing minimum landing size should allow for a greater number of animals the opportunity to reproduce before being commercially harvestable.

"A minimum landing size will allow stocks to recover which can only be a positive thing." [Individual response]

II. Market Benefits

Others highlighted the potential market benefits of such a move (bigger animal; greater meat yield).

"Should be that size everywhere, give stocks more time to reproduce and bigger size should have better market value." [Individual response]

Negative Impact

I. Economic impact

Several responses raised the cost to fishermen of an increase. One response requested an impact assessment be carried out before any such increase was introduced but others offset an initial reduction in queen scallops caught against longer term benefits to the fishery.

II. Questions over survivability of discarded queen scallops

Comments were also raised as to whether queen scallops under the minimum landing size would survive having been fished and then discarded overboard.

"It is inherent in any proposal that founds upon minimum landing size as a mechanism to promote sustainability that the catching and returning process has suitably low mortality to effect the objectives. There appears to be no evidence of this supplied." [Individual response]

Question 12: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of requiring that vessels over 12 metres in length, with AIS or other electronic systems, must have their systems switched on at all times while within 8 nautical miles of the Orkney Isles?

Positive comments

The overwhelming majority of comments in relation to the impact of AIS monitoring were supportive. Most supportive comments highlighted the advantages in terms of ensuring compliance and monitoring of dredge activity but also in terms of health and safety and as an aid to identifying interactions with other marine resource users.

I. Aid for monitoring / compliance

"This should be a must to allow the proper tracking of vessels fishing grounds." [Individual response]

II. Health and Safety benefits

"All vessels of all sizes and methods of fishing should carry AIS for safety issues." [Individual response]

III. Aid interaction with other marine users / fishermen

"Yes good idea. Makes it obvious what boats are causing problems with static gear and cables." [Individual response]

IV. Vessel tracking should be extended

"We welcome this and consider that similar approaches should be standard for all vessels capable of towing dredges within 12 miles of Scotland's coast." [Open Seas]

Negative Impact

Negative comments were more limited in terms of number of the responses and the range of issues presented. A small number of active fishermen were concerned that other fishers would be able to monitor their activity, and two responses raised difficulties in policing without outlining their concern in great detail.

"Very negative effect as every scallop skipper in the UK with access to the internet will see a possible good fishing taking place around Orkney and before you know it your stupid laws will have caused overfishing." [Individual response]

Marine Scotland Response

Marine Scotland will not introduce the proposed pilot for the management of scallop fishing around the Orkney Isles. The primary reasons being:

  • A lack of clarity over the aims of the project.
  • Issues around why particular management measures were proposed.
  • Questions over monitoring of proposals and how any changes would be demonstrated.

We shall explore each of these in turn.

A lack of clarity over the aims of the project

In the pilot proposal form, the guidance clearly states that the proposals will be considered on "The clarity of the objectives – does the proposal clearly identify issues and the means of addressing them?" However, relative to other proposals submitted, the objective(s) of the pilot were not clearly set out.

In response to Question 3 ("Please summarise your proposal, including other options that you have considered"), the desired management measures are outlined along with a brief account of previous attempts to introduce a Regulatory Order and voluntary agreement around scallop management. However, at no point is a clear objective set out (though elsewhere in the form, concerns over the fishery dating back to the 1990s are briefly outlined). The response to Question 13 ("Please outline what you believe the direct and indirect benefits of your proposal will be?") briefly outlines the perceived benefits from the proposal which can be summarised as:

  • Relieving fishing pressure
  • Improve market conditions
  • Regulate the supply of scallops to processors

This lack of clear aims and objectives was picked up on in opposing responses with two distinct opposing views expressed. Firstly, those in the fishing industry challenged that the underlying aim of the proposal was to remove non-Orkney based vessels from the fishery and secondly, those whose responses focused on the environmental impact of scallop fishing stated that the specific management measures selected may not reduce the impact of scallop fishing effort in the area.

Issues around why particular management measures were proposed

Following on from a lack of clarity for the overall aims of the Orkney pilot proposal are issues surrounding why the proposed management measures were brought forward, and what other measures were considered but rejected.

With the exception of the landing size restriction, the management measures focus on limiting the size and dredge number capacity of vessels permitted to fish in the area. Opponents took issue with the proposed management measures on the basis that:

1. They alleged the vessel size and dredge capacity restrictions seemed to disproportionately impact on vessels based outside the Orkney Isles.

2. Fishing pressure might not necessarily reduce but transfer from large fishing vessels to smaller fishing vessels.

In response to the suggestion that non-Orkney vessels would be disproportionately impacted, an analysis of fishing data indicates that the proposed dredge and vessel restrictions would indeed significantly impact on non-Orkney based vessels with a history of activity in the area.

Questions over monitoring of proposals and how any changes would be demonstrated

There is limited consideration over how any changes would be monitored. The proposal does state that a monitoring group with a range of representatives would be set up and that a dedicated individual would be needed to record the progress of the pilot but neither of proposals are set out in any depth.

Outside of the impact on the landings by individual vessels, quantifying substantive changes as a consequence of the proposal would appear to be significant. There is limited baseline data on stock status and collecting any such data could prove costly and time consuming.


The Orkney proposal had some strong points. It clearly identified the geographic area to which it applied and it received strong local support. However, there were areas which could have benefitted from further consideration, such as a clear explanation as to the underlying objective and aims of the proposal and a clearer background to the development of the proposal.

Marine Scotland is also concerned at how potential benefits would be demonstrated given a lack of baseline data.

For these reasons we will not be introducing the Orkney pilot proposal.