Creel fishing: effort study

Report to assess the environmental sustainability of fish stocks and the socioeconomic efficiency of fishing activity.

7. Summary of Findings

7.1 Creel Effort

The majority of creel effort in Scotland's inshore waters can be broken down into three key fisheries; the west coast Nephrops creel fishery; the west coast crab and lobster creel fishery and; the east coast crab and lobster creel fishery. The type of gears used is more dependent on the fishing environment and to a lesser extent species targeted. For the west coast the standard 'D' shaped prawn creel dominates in the Nephrops and the standard 'D' shaped lobster creel in the crab and lobster fisheries due to the more sheltered grounds and deeper waters compared to the east coast were a mixed range of the stronger parlour creels are used to target crab and lobster on the hard substrate and turbid waters closer to shore. Few creels had any form of adaptation and those that had have been disabled to improve retention rates of target species, mainly velvet crab.

Access and deployment rates vary between these fisheries with vessels accessing up to a maximum of 3,000 (deployment 2,500) creels in the west coast Nephrops fishery compared with 1,200 (deployed 900) creels in the west coast crab and lobster fishery and 2,300 (accessed and deployed) in the east coast crab and lobster fishery. The average number for creels accessed and deployed by vessels was much lower than the maximum figures which was on average 1,009 (926 deployed) in the west coast Nephrops fishery, compared to a 359 creels (294 deployed) in the west coast crab and lobster fishery, and 542 (455 deployed) in the east coast crab and lobster fishery.

The amount of creels deployed are best related to length of vessel or, more favoured by fishers, number of crew. When broken down by crews the number of Nephrops creels deployed has a somewhat linear increase (+~600 creels per crew member) which is also the case in the east coast crab and lobster fishers (+~350 creels per crew member). These increases are higher than the reported average daily hauling rates of 400 creels per crew member in the Nephrops fishery and 200 creels per crew member in the crab and lobster fisheries.

Creel numbers deployed do not appear to vary significantly between seasons in the west coast Nephrops fishery, but they do vary substantially in the east coast crab and lobster fishery with an increase of almost a third from the lowest deployment levels in February up to peak deployment levels in August. Hauling frequencies also varied between season in all fisheries with most fishers hauling every 2 days during the summer or good weather periods which extended up to a week or longer in winter or poor weather periods.

7.2 Future Reporting of Creel Effort

The recent revisions to the new Fish1 forms should result in improved reporting of creel effort by all inshore vessels. This will allow effort data to be linked to landings data and effort monitoring to take place throughout the year. There are still some limitations with this approach to data collection, such as fishers having to manually record the data and only provide the start location of fishing and not the direction or distance the gear is deployed. However, at this time, this is considered to strike the correct balance between data requirements and reporting burden on those operating in these fisheries. The Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data Systems ( SIFIDS), a new European Maritime Fisheries Funded ( EMFF) project, is focused exclusively on exploring an integrated system for the collection, collation, analysis and interrogation of the Scottish inshore fishing fleet and the work programme will make recommendations on a range of new techniques and technologies to improve inshore data collection in the future.

7.3 Views on Future Management

There was a clear view that current shellfish management needs to be reviewed, if not a direct request for management intervention from most of the fishers interviewed. Creel saturation, on available grounds, also more widely termed as 'creel on creel conflict', was voiced as the key concern for shellfish fisheries on both the east and west coasts of Scotland and exploring the options of creel limits was supported by over three quarters of fishers interviewed (76-77%). This extends to unlicensed/hobby fishers which was most prevalent on the east coast but also, but to a lesser degree, present on the west coast.

Spatial conflict between static and mobile gear vessels is still an issue on both coasts, but some alternative approaches used in recent years (communication on known creel grounds with visiting vessels and courtesy notices by trawling vessels when working in the vicinity of creel grounds), and local zoning arrangements, do appear beneficial and should continue to be supported to improve on these interactions. It is, however, inescapable that as competition for marine space continues, conflicts between sectors will remain and trade-offs from all sided will need to take place.

Notwithstanding these two key concerns, there still appeared to be a degree of optimism about creel fishing and it continuing to provide a good livelihood with around two thirds of those interviewed stating that they were either confident and able to develop their businesses or were happy to maintain at the current level even if did not want to develop further. Of the remaining one third who were not confident, creel saturation and spatial conflict were the main reasons, those not exclusively, and this was slightly higher for the east coast than the west coast.

A higher proportion of fishers on the west coast (63%) were against spatial management of creel vessel compared to the east coast (45%), voicing the displacement as the main reason for not favouring these types of approaches. Those who were in favour of management support more flexible arrangements, such as seasonal/temporal closures to support target species during vulnerable stages in their life cycle (breeding or moult) or to protect landed price. They also felt that spatial management of static vessels needed to be a collaboration between the local and national administrators.

Effort management is the approach most favoured by 81% of fishers on the west coast and at a slightly lower proportion of 76%, on the east coast. Permit limitations along with creel limits were the options most discussed. Many views were given on how to create a fair and equitable system. A key issue when accounting for creel limits was how to manage creels being used to holding ground vs. creels not being fished due to bad weather. Most fishers voiced the need for a flexible system that reflects the hazards and natural complexity of working in the marine environment, but also regulations that are tough enough to deal with those deliberately breaking the rules. This was also raised as a key challenge during the group discussions at the workshop on suitable legislation for managing inshore fisheries.

Spatial management was a less supported option potentially due to a misunderstanding into the range of spatial management options which could be used to benefit fisheries management rather than just those that are put in place for conservation. More resistance was recorded on the west coast were conservation measures in the form of Marine Protracted Areas are prevalent and most fishers associated spatial management with marine conservation rather than a tool in fisheries management. More information on the potential role of spatial management should be shared between fishers and fisheries administrators to improve its understand and successful implementation.

7.4 Conclusion

This report presents a 'snap shot' of creel fishing effort in four regions in Scotland. This has produced a range of parameters which allows the fishing industry and Marine Scotland to explore options of future management at a local and regional level. There are two concluding remarks:

1) It is increasingly clear that creel fishing, in opposition to a number of other marine fisheries is, predominantly, a local issue and any future management should be tackled at the local level. National regulation is clearly not suitable, as demonstrated by the wide divergence of fishing practices around the coastline detailed in this report and the variation in numbers and types of creels deployed. A regional framework may offer guidance for what should be considered for inshore shellfish fisheries, but any form of creel management is likely to require local negotiations for particular fishing grounds, which will require exploring spatial as well as effort regulations at a localised level.

As outlined in Annex 2 and discussed by a range of industry stakeholders, the current legislation for managing inshore fisheries has limitations for supporting legally-based forms of management in an adaptive manner. Therefore management opportunities, in the short term, are most likely at the local, level and through informal agreements. An option would be to trial local management in a region where fishers support is high and any voluntary agreements would, on the whole, be supported and respected. Such a trial would allow further evidence to be gathered to help inform a more formal management structure or framework, should local management prove workable. This approach, although still open to the criticisms voiced during the stakeholder interviews regarding enforcement, 'toothless' management and the punishment of wrong doers, does offer the opportunity to develop bottom-up rules and regulations in a flexible manner which allows adaptation to regulations should problems or unintended consequences become evident. This approach would need to be supported by both Marine Scotland and Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups ( rIFGs) and suitable pilot sites identified.

2) Effort monitoring should continue so all creel vessel activity can be mapped and total effort deployed in Scottish waters quantified. These data will become available through the new Fish1 forms and once available can be updated and monitored. This new data stream along with the SIFIDS work programme presents a significant opportunity to improve data exchange between fishers and scientists and feed into regional and local management.

Producing a census on creel fishing effort will allow meaningful integration of inshore fishing activity with wider marine spatial planning and provide more evidence of the value of the creel sector in these waters. This will improve the evidence based for inshore fishers to quantify and explain likely impacts from marine development and the likely trade-offs when negotiating marine space with other marine users.


Email: Estelle Jones,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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