Proposal 5: Zonal Boxes
In the fifth pilot we sought views on the establishment of 'zonal boxes'. These would be specified areas / zones of the sea where either static or mobile gear fishing activity would be permitted for a limited period of time. Separation would be determined by stakeholders in reaction to local fishing pressures.
For example, a seasonally important squid fishery can result in conflict between mobile and static gear fishermen (and similarly between vessels targeting scallops by dredge and creel fishermen). This is due to the sectors operating in the same area at the same time but fishing with different gears and for different species.
The concept was developed by Marine Scotland, building upon a proposal from the Arbroath and Montrose Static Gear Association, which was initially aimed at improving the management of the creel fishery in their area.
An overview of the proposal as developed by Marine Scotland is provided in the consultation document. The original proposal form as submitted is available at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00525811.pdf.
The consultation asked three questions in relation to this proposal (Questions 17 to 19).
Question 17: Do you support Marine Scotland exploring the concept of zonal boxes where either static or mobile gear fishing activity would be permitted for a limited period of time?
There were 37 responses to this question, with 29 respondents (78%) expressing support for the proposal and 8 respondents (22%) opposing it.
The proposal received support from a number of fishing organisations, including the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation. Individual respondents included creel and mobile fishermen active in the Arbroath area, as well as others from around the coast with an interest in the zonal box concept.
There was one organisation opposed to the proposal (North East Creel & Line Association), along with another seven individuals respondents opposing.
I. Reduce gear conflict
The most common view from those in support of the proposal was that the zonal box concept could help to reduce conflict between the static and mobile sectors.
"It seems an obvious way to reduce gear conflict. Gear conflict is potentially dangerous and costly for all involved and is best avoided." [Individual response]
II. Inform fisheries management
Several responses also saw the concept as a flexible approach to fisheries management, which would offer a fair and equal opportunity to both sectors in areas where they fished the same grounds.
"A mobile fishing vessel will always win the fight with a static gear boat which is not right because neither should have preference, zonal boxes will set out clear boundaries for all. A static gear vessel must not set its gear outside of a zonal box and a mobile vessel must not enter a zonal box, suitable penalties should be imposed on either gear type that breaches the agreement. Zonal boxes must be rotational, for example a box that was static gear only should be made available to mobile vessels every quarter or monthly or whichever agreeable cycle suits an area and likewise a mobile area becomes available for statics but areas must not be zoned off indefinitely for one gear type or the other. I feel that this approach is the future of inshore fisheries management around the coast of Scotland." [Individual response]
However, others cautioned that for the concept to work effectively, it must have the support and co-operation of both sectors in the chosen area.
The principal concern by those opposed to the proposal was that implementing a zonal box in an area could lead to it becoming saturated with fishing effort, which could have subsequent impacts on the local fish stocks and marine environment.
"This idea of zonal boxes creates a 'honey pot' situation where styles and modes of fishing become over concentrated." [Individual response]
"In any zonal projects I have witnessed it becomes a huge feast or famine problem and it's only the stock that suffers long term and bad for the seabed Arbroath." [Individual response]
Question 18: Should this concept be explored in the Arbroath area as outlined above?
There were 31 responses to this question, with 21 respondents (68%) expressing support for Arbroath and 10 respondents (32%) opposing it.
Views were generally along the same lines as for Question 17. A small number of respondents who supported the general concept were opposed to it being trialled in the Arbroath area, as discussed further below.
The main emphasis from those supportive was that the proposal could reduce gear conflict and make for overall safer fishing conditions in the Arbroath area.
"To reduce gear conflict and financial losses and encourage good working practice for all. Also to improve health and safety at work as the dangers for a potting vessel trying to retrieve lost gear are great. Also creating a level playing field for both types of vessel." [Individual response]
A clear specific criticism was a lack of consultation with the mobile sector, and that a full discussion on the details of trialling a zonal box in the Arbroath area would be required between the static and mobile sectors.
Another criticism was that the zonal box concept did not match the proposal that had been submitted by Arbroath fishermen, and so did not meet their stated needs for improving fisheries management in the area.
Question 19: Is there any other area of the coast you would recommend for exploring zonal arrangements?
The majority of responses did not suggest a specific area, but instead generally recommended any area where local fishermen thought it was required, for reasons of resolving gear conflict between static and mobile sectors, or otherwise.
"Yes an area in which the local fishers have asked for help in managing gear conflict between diverse gears and different fishing methods." [Individual response]
A number of responses also used this question as an opportunity to call for spatial separation around the entire Scottish coast, with some in particular referring to the 'three mile limit'.
"The 3 mile limit should be reinstated as soon as possible to keep mobile gear away from the sensitive habitats of the inshore. The 3 mile limit worked. Its reinstatement would allow for better management of the creel fishery, and would allow recovery of habitats that have long been degraded and chipped away at by the mobile sector. At the moment little blobs of important habitat are protected, with the mobile sector disturbing the ground around these areas, this arrangement might protect small isolated areas, but it gives them no chance to recover or expand." [Individual response]
Specific areas around the coast were suggested by some respondents, which included:
- East of Orkney
- Firth of Lorn
- Inner Sound.
- Mull of Kintyre to the Sound of Jura
- Outer Hebrides (Shiant Islands to the Butt of Lewis)
- West Coast Sea Lochs (Loch Duich, Loch Alsh, Loch Carron)
Marine Scotland Response
There was strong support for the concept of zonal boxes from respondents; however, this was tempered with requests for further clarification around what the proposal would involve.
Those supportive of the proposal saw it as a means of reducing gear conflict and better managing access to the fisheries resource.
Having considered the responses, Marine Scotland will work with those who fish in the Arbroath area to establish zonal arrangements and test a new approach to fisheries management.
This pilot will allow us to assess the potential for local management of the fisheries resource in reaction to local fishing pressures and the impact of gear separation.