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Proposed inshore fisheries pilot host sites 2017: consultation analysis

Summary of feedback from the 'consultation on proposed sites to host inshore fisheries pilots 2017', which took place from 30 November 2017 to 22 February 2018.

The report provides Marine Scotland’s response to each pilot p


Analysis of Consultation Responses
Proposal 1: The Inner Sound of Skye

This proposal involves extending the current six month restriction on mobile gear fishing in the southern Inner Sound to a full 12 month closure. The full proposal form can be viewed at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00525812.pdf and an overview is provided in the consultation document.

The consultation document asked two questions in relation to this proposal (Questions 1 and 2).

Question 1: Do you agree that the pilot proposal for the Inner Sound of Skye should be taken forward by Marine Scotland as described?

There were 85 responses to this question, with 43 respondents (50.5%) expressing support for the proposal and 42 respondents (49.5%) opposing it.

Supportive groups included: representatives of static gear fishermen in the area (the North West Responsible Fishermen's Association and the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation), the environmental group Open Seas, a local community council and the Coastal Producer Organisation Limited. There were individual responses from creel and scallop dive fishermen active in the area and individuals with an interest in the area.

Those not supportive included: the Ross, Sutherland, Skye and Lochalsh Fishermen's Association, the West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation, the Western Isles Fishermen's Association and WWF Scotland. Individuals who responded 'no' to this question tended to be associated with the mobile gear sector of the fishing industry.

Themes from supportive responses

I. Environmental Benefits

Respondents to the consultation placed a clear emphasis on the potential environmental benefits of prohibiting mobile gear fishing in the area for the duration of the trial.

"As a creel fisherman, I believe that trawled Nephrops represent an in-efficient use of the limited stock in inshore fisheries, due to their lower value, and the indiscriminatory nature of trawling which is grossly damaging to the marine ecosystem, especially in inshore waters." [Individual response]

"We have serious concerns about the ongoing environmental damage caused by bottom trawling and dredging in our inshore seas. We therefore aspire to see a better management system in place to protect vulnerable seabed, and avoid fishing patterns that involve high bycatch rates – particularly of rare, threatened and protected species and juveniles… we do consider this proposal to be an appropriate way to pilot the approach and evidence the benefits." [Open Seas]

II. Economic Benefits

Another clear theme from responses was the belief that prohibiting the use of mobile gear in the area would deliver economic benefits both to fishers themselves and the wider community.

"The area around the Inner Sound is composed of many communities which have marginal school rolls, modest employment opportunities and in many cases declining populations, the ability of Nephrops creel fisheries to provide employment at least a 4:1 rate as compared to Nephrops trawl would appear to suggest that employment opportunities would be significantly better if the Inner Sound Nephrops fisheries were exploited exclusively with static gears. We believe that this pilot will demonstrate that is indeed the case." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

"This is an opportunity to let the small creel boat operators thrive again. By removing trawlers, prawn stocks can recover creating jobs and retaining economic benefits within small fragile communities." [Individual response]

III. Gear Conflict

A common conclusion from those associated with the static fishing industry was that the pilot would result in a decrease of gear conflict in the area. Responses highlighted the cost to static gear fishermen of gear conflict both in terms of the costs to replace fishing equipment and lost fishing opportunity.

"The fishermen of the Inner Sound have experienced severe gear conflict between mobile and static gear for many years, which has not been resolved despite several efforts at mitigation and conflict resolution. This gear conflict leads to significant financial losses for the creel vessels/skippers when gear is towed away or damaged, often with impunity." [Individual response]

"Accordingly it is our contention that if the Inner Sound were freed from its annual cycle of gear conflict its fishermen would be able to enjoy a level of security that they and most other static gear fishermen have been deprived of for many years." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

IV. Other positive benefits

Also highlighted in responses, but to a lesser degree, was the ability of this proposal to inform future management, and to compensate for the reduction in creel fishing grounds arising from the recent extension of the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre ( BUTEC), which is a military testing facility in the Inner Sound.

Themes from opposing responses

I. Economic impact

The economic impact of prohibiting mobile gear vessels from the Inner Sound of Skye was emphasised by opponents, particularly responses from individuals who claimed to fish in the area.

"As someone who has been brought up in this area and spent ALL my working days fishing out of this area, I think it would be a retrograde step. It would affect my ability to remain viable, my ability to retain my 2 local crewmen and would instead lead to a very exclusive little club." [Individual response]

"I currently have 4 full time crew and 3 seasonal. In April I employ more crew on a casual basis as once the "closed areas" are open its essential to make up the losses we endure out of season, it's the only way we can make a living. Without the ability to fish the Inner sound my livelihood and that of the crew would cease." [Individual response]

II. Health and Safety

Another recurrent view in opposing responses was the negative impact that the proposal could have in terms of health and safety of vessels and crews, prohibited from fishing in the sheltered waters as part of the pilot.

"I've been a fisherman for 30 years, 20 years skippering boats. The vast majority of that time has been in the waters local to Skye. The local fleet of under 12m boats rely heavily on these small sheltered pockets of water to safely fish in poor weather. Access in the "open season" is crucial to balance out the closed months when we are stormbound and cannot safely fish elsewhere." [Individual response]

III. Displacement of Fishing Effort

Displacement was also identified as a negative impact by those opposed. Many stated that fishing effort would be transferred to other grounds and subsequently increase the environmental footprint of fishing in these areas. Aligned to this in many opposing responses was that fishing opportunities had reduced recently in other areas of the west coast (particularly as a result of environmental designations).

"Closing the area to all mobile vessels would result in displacement of mobile effort into other areas which could cause additional interaction in other areas of the West Coast." [Western Isles Fishermen's Association]

"Mobile gear vessels are already being restricted by the increasing amount of MPAs appearing around our coast, further restrictions are not necessary." [Individual response]

IV. Environmental Impact

Many responses questioned the proposed environmental benefits of prohibiting mobile gear fishing and called for greater control of creel fishing. An example often given was the Torridon 'creel box' where mobile gear fishing was prohibited, which respondents believed demonstrated a negative impact of creel only fishing.

"I am afraid greed has taken over with the creel men who are intent in destroying their own fishery and future. Just like what they've done to Loch Torridon already where they got their total trawling ban now just a barren wasteland now due to complete unrestricted greed driven creels fishing." [Individual response]

"Creel fishing isn't as sustainable it is made out, due to the non movement of fleets of creels which catches prawns and those fleets are moved a matter of metres before being reshot into the water, I have seen and done this myself on vessels as when creel boats buy more and more creels, they even close off grounds to themselves as they are scared to move a fleet more than they have to in case another vessel moves into grounds recently vacated." [Individual response]

V. Shared access / management

Other responses called for greater communication between the different sectors targeting the fishery or stated that current arrangements worked well.

"Having this area closed to trawlers for 6 months is a Benefit for trawlers and static gear fisherman, proper management does not mean banning fisherman doing their jobs, we agree with management but it's got to be done with the right purpose in mind." [Lochfyne Langoustines Ltd]

Question 2: What is your view on the possible impact, both positive and negative, of amending the current six month restriction so that all mobile gear fishing is prohibited throughout the duration of the pilot?

Question 2 explicitly asked for views on the impact of the proposed management measure, both positive and negative. There was a strong overlap with responses to Question 1 and the same themes were prevalent.

Positive Impacts

I. Environmental

The main positive impact cited in responses was that of a positive environmental impact accruing from the exclusion of mobile gear fishing for the duration of the trial. This was in terms of the impact on target stock and by-catch species, and a reduction in the disturbance of the seabed associated with mobile gear fishing.

"The environment/fishery will benefit from less discarding, less by-catch and less benthic disturbance and, as creel vessels only require about a quarter of the live-catch weight as a trawler to employ the same amount of people, even the prawns themselves will be better off for any given amount of employment." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

"Closing the ground to vessels using trawl gear should allow better management of stocks and also allow stocks to increase and spread outwards from the closed area, therefore improving sustainability and minimising environmental and ecological damage to the marine environment." [Kyleakin and Kylerhea Community Council]

II. Economic

A number of responses stated that the pilot would result in a positive economic impact. They asserted that there would be a positive impact in terms of individuals already creeling, wider benefits to others who may gain direct employment as a result of the pilot and, at its widest, benefits to the local communities.

"In time, those working single handed myself included) will look at taking on a crew as the fishery slowly recovers. Currently a number of skippers work single handed as it is not economically viable to take on a crew - This in the main, is as a result of the dominance of the trawlers over the grounds, in outer Loch Carron during the summer months at least 80% of which cannot be creeled for fear of gear being towed down the loch." [Individual response]

"Whilst we don't feel we are in a position to be able to accurately predict positive and negative impacts, there is economic research that suggests that closures to trawling can positively affect the overall productivity for fisheries and other economic activity dependent on improved ecosystem health, in turn resulting in socio-economic benefits for connected coastal communities." [Open Seas]

III. Gear Conflict

Many responses, especially those that appeared to be from the active fishing industry, identified a reduction in gear conflict as a clear benefit.

"The most tangible and guaranteed benefits are; no gear conflict will save static gear boats having their fleets hauled and ruined by trawl boats…" [Individual response]

"The most obvious positive impact will be on creel fishing, the morale of those engaged in the fishery with the knowledge that their creels will not be towed away or damaged …" [Individual response]

IV. Inform Management

The potential for this pilot to inform future management was listed a positive impact in a number of responses.

"A proper trial requires that the mobile gear be prohibited therefore the principal benefit will be that Scotland gets it's first significant opportunity to trial and assess the implications of separating static and mobile gears." [Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation]

"This trial enables research of local and national interest at a time when environmental and sustainability issues are paramount." [Individual response]

V. Other positive impacts Identified

To a lesser degree, other positive impacts were noted in responses such as:

  • A positive impact on health and safety of static gear fishermen involved in the fishery
  • Improved market conditions
  • Would benefit those who had lost grounds as a result of a recent expansion of the BUTEC testing range in the Inner Sound

Negative Impacts

I. Stock impact / increase in creel effort

The majority of comments on Question 2 against the proposal related to the potential for a negative stock impact and associated increase in static gear fishing effort. This was focused on the impact of the Nephrops stock in the area.

"The grounds will get no rest at all. In the six months the mobile boats are fishing it is impossible for them to fish 24/7. If the static boats fish here 12 months of the year. It will be relentless the few hours in the week it takes them to haul a string of creels will be the only hours in the year they won't be fishing." [Individual response]

"I am a creel fisherman and some of my best catches come from the edges of the trawl ground where creels don't normally go. The amount of creels that lie dormant in my area in the winter, due to vessels having 2 or 3 sets of gear makes creel fishing very frustrating, there's not a lot of room to move around. I don't think the trawlers should suffer because of it." [Individual response]

Many cited other creel only zones which, it was alleged, had resulted in a negative impact on the Nephrops stock.

"The experience in Torridon has already demonstrated that an all year fishery in a trawl free area has not worked with huge reductions in the catch per unit effort and is another reason that multi-functional methods seem to be productive for the sustainability of the prawn fishery." [Western Isles Fishermen's Association]

II. Economic

The economic impact of the exclusion of mobile gear vessels was also recurrent. This was particularly true from individual respondents who claimed to fish in the Inner Sound area.

"My family and that of my crew rely on fishing, small fishing communities can't exist without it. We cannot sustain our living without the safety and shelter of the Inner Sound. It's that simple. It accounts for 40-50 percent of our yearly grossings." [Individual response]

It is worth highlighting that many who supported the proposal also identified that there would be a loss of fishing opportunity to mobile gear fishermen. It was felt this would be offset by benefits to the creel sector, and mobile vessels would be able to fish in other areas.

"There is no doubt that there will be a displacement of a small number of Mobile Demersal Vessels but this will be during the summer months and there are undoubtedly sufficient grounds nearby to accommodate this. There is barely any activity within this area involving Scallop Dredgers so the impact in this Fishery would again be very minimal." [Individual response]

III. Health and Safety Concerns

Many responses made clear that any changes to current provisions would have negative implications for the health and safety of mobile gear fishermen.

"Directly affecting the risk on small vessels having to work more in unsheltered waters which could result in injury or fatalities." [Individual response]

"From a safety point of view I find it very concerning as it is going to force the small trawlers out into exposed seas, as they can no longer get the same shelter provided by the inner sound. It is forcing them to take further risks to continue to make their businesses viable. Many of them rely on this area of fishing to open at the beginning of April as this is when they have to make their income which carries them through the year." [Individual response]

IV. Displacement

Many responses that opposed the pilot being introduced highlighted the potential for trawl fishing effort to be displaced elsewhere, and that mobile gear fishing opportunities had been reduced in recent years.

"A further knock-on effect of closing the Inner Sound is displacement of mobile demersal fishing vessels to surrounding areas, potentially increasing the impact on other sensitive habitats or adjacent MPAs." [ WWF Scotland]

V. Other negative impacts

Other negative impacts identified that could arise from the pilot were:

  • A negative market impact
  • An increase of gear conflict
  • A cultural loss
  • Loss of opportunity to develop 'new' mobile gear fisheries in the area

Marine Scotland Response

Marine Scotland will not introduce the proposed pilot for the Inner Sound of Skye. This is due to a number of factors, primarily:

  • Concerns over the impact on mobile gear vessels that currently fish the area
  • The similarity with the Torridon creel only zone
  • The purported economic benefits are disputed
  • Concerns over the ability to monitor impact of management interventions

We shall explore each of these factors in turn.

Concerns over the impact on mobile gear vessels that currently fish the area

There is a clear concern from the mobile gear sector, particularly the trawled Nephrops sector, on the potential negative financial impact of this pilot.

In the impact analysis included in the consultation document, we estimated that 19 mobile gear vessels fished in the relevant area during the permitted period (between 2011 and 2016). Further, we estimate that 12.5% of the total landings by these vessels during this period were taken from the proposed pilot area.

The importance of the area varied for these 19 vessels in terms of (1) the number of years fished and (2) the value taken from the area as a percentage of total fishing landings.

We estimate that eight of the 19 vessels fished in one of the six years analysed. Of the 11 other vessels, the vast majority fished in two or three of the six years. The table below shows the number of mobile gear vessels estimated to have any fishing activity within the relevant area in the years between 2011 and 2016.

Table 1: Estimated number of mobile vessels targeting Nephrops in Inner Sound

Year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Vessels 4 6 4 7 7 10

The majority of mobile gear vessels targeted Nephrops in the Inner Sound did not do so year in, year out but instead had a pattern of returning to the area on an episodic basis. As can also be seen from the table above, there has been an increase in the number of mobile gear vessels landing Nephrops from the area.

Trends in importance of Nephrops from the Inner Sound to mobile gear vessels

For the 19 relevant vessels, we estimate that 12.5% of their catch value comes from the proposed pilot area during the period 2011 to 2016. The importance to individual vessels varies substantially, with many instances of vessels recording less than 10% of their landing value from the Inner Sound area when active in any season.

Figure 1 shows the number of Nephrops mobile gear vessels active in the proposed pilot area each year. For each vessel, we show the percentage of catch value of Nephrops taken from the area as a percentage of their total catch value during the period that mobile gear fishing is permitted.

For example, in 2011, we estimate that four vessels reported landings from the area. For one of these vessels, the area accounts for between 0-10% of its total catch value, another between 10-20%, and for two vessels it accounts for between 80-90% of catch value.

Figure 1 demonstrates that, from 2013 onwards, there is a trend of increasing numbers of mobile vessels targeting Nephrops in the area, and a growth in the value of Nephrops caught in the Inner Sound as a percentage of overall catch value.

Figure 1: Number of vessels with percentage Inner Sound Nephrops landings value as % of total landings value) by year.
Figure 1: Number of vessels with percentage Inner Sound Nephrops landings value as % of total landings value) by year.

Landings data therefore demonstrates that a small (but growing) number of vessels fish in the Inner Sound for Nephrops by mobile gear when permitted. The dependence of vessels on the area for total catch varies from vessel-to-vessel and from year-to-year. However, for a small number of vessels the area contributes to a significant proportion of their catch value and this pilot proposal would impact on them, though the significance of that impact varies.

The similarity to the Torridon creel only zone

A number of responses opposing the Inner Sound proposal stated that the creation of a creel only zone would have a negative impact on the Nephrops stock. Many cited the creel only zone in Loch Torridon as a precedent where this had been the outcome.

As with the Inner Sound of Skye proposal, the background to the introduction of the creel only zone in Loch Torridon was conflict between the mobile and creel sectors targeting Nephrops in the area. As a result, legislation [3] was introduced which saw the creation of specified zones within Loch Torridon – one which only allows for fishing for Nephrops by creel and another where only trawling is permitted.

At the same time that this legislation was introduced, local creel fishermen established the Torridon Nephrops Management Groupwhich developed and implemented a voluntary code of practice for the fishery. This code included a number of provisions to protect the fishery, such as:

  • A limit on the number of creels
  • Days at sea limit
  • Ban on landing berried females
  • Escape panels in creels

The Torridon Nephrops creel fishery gained Marine Stewardship Council ( MSC) certification in 2003. However, the fishery was withdrawn from the MSC programme in 2011 following an increase in effort, in part through an increase in 'new' creel vessels being drawn to the fishery.

What this highlights is that a creel only zone similar to the one set out in the consultation document for the Inner Sound has been established and further, its impact on stock in Loch Torridon assessed [4] .

The Inner Sound proposal, if introduced, could face similar issues around controlling static gear effort as encountered in the Loch Torridon creel only zone. The Inner Sound proposal identifies increased creel effort in the area as a potential risk of introducing the pilot but does not effectively present a mechanism for limiting additional creel effort.

Section 10 of the proposal form requested that proposers "clearly set out the management controls you would wish to see for the pilot and the rationale for each control proposed". Included in that section, the proposal stated "Possibly restrict the numbers of creel vessels / gear deployable in the area",and in the relevant sections the rationale/possible positive consequences are identified alongside possible negative consequences. However, there is limited consideration of the mechanisms required to put in place the suggested restrictions on effort.

The claimed economic benefits are disputed

A central argument behind the Inner Sound proposal is that a greater economic return could be delivered to coastal communities though creel fishing for Nephrops as opposed to trawling, and this was cited in numerous supportive responses from individual fishermen, fishing associations, a local community council and the environmental group Open Seas.

This is in line with recent research commissioned by the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation which argues that creeling delivers more jobs per tonne caught and is economically more efficient [5] . A recent New Economics Foundation study also recommends allocating preferential access to the creel fleet in inshore waters to " provide a necessary lifeline for highly dependent rural communities, especially on the West Coast of Scotland." [6]

However, these conclusions have been challenged by research commissioned by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and Scottish Fishermen's Organisation. Their report concludes that current management arrangements across Scotland's Nephrops fishing segment are well balanced and calls for them to be maintained. [7]

These arguments were mirrored in responses in the consultation. It should be noted that some onshore businesses, which are a step removed from the fishing fleet, also highlighted negative economic consequences in their responses and emphasised their dependence on mobile fishing in the Inner Sound region.

Questions over monitoring of impacts and baseline data

The submitted pilot proposal set out the potential benefits of prohibiting mobile gear fishing, but included only very limited proposals for monitoring these (stock/environmental) impacts.

With the exception of monitoring the impact on landings from individual vessels quantifying substantive changes as a consequence of the proposal would appear to be challenging. For example, there is little data on stock status at the required spatial resolution, and the frequency of gear conflict in the area. The collection of data required to inform such assessments could prove costly and time consuming, and require substantial additional resources.

However, qualitative data could be obtained in the form of interviews with fishers during the pilot period to capture views on the success or otherwise of the management intervention and any perceived changes in gear conflict.

It should also be noted that the relevant and surrounding area has also been subject to a number of management interventions in recent years (establishment of the Loch Duich, Long and Alsh MPA; Loch Carron designation; extension of the BUTEC testing facility) and establishing which management intervention was responsible for any changes could be challenging.

Conclusion

Though an interesting and thought provoking proposal, we will not be piloting a prohibition on mobile gear fishing in the Inner Sound area.

Some features of the proposal were strong. It had been developed by local fishermen in the area and had a key central premise – that greater benefits could return to the community by only allowing static gear fishing within the Inner sound.

However, there was considerable opposition to the proposal from the mobile gear sector. Individuals targeting Nephrops by mobile gear claimed that the proposal would have a significant impact in terms of continued economic viability. Concerns were also expressed over the impact of displacement both in terms of health and safety implications and increasing fishing effort in other areas. The proposed benefits accruing from the pilot were also challenged and there are questions over monitoring the impact of the proposal.

Questions do remain over whether current management arrangements for the Nephrops fishery are making best use of the available resource . Therefore, Marine Scotland has recently commissioned economic modelling of Scotland's Nephrops fishing grounds. This will establish a baseline of the Nephrops sector in Scotland, and develop an analytical model to test what an optimal Nephrops sector would look like under selected policy objectives. This work will report at the end of 2018.

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