Management Measures in Scotland
In addition to management measures designed to control the amount of fish removed from the sea ( TACs), other measures are also applied. Technical measures to regulate the fishing gears in use influence the selectivity of fisheries. A number of mesh size regulations are in place to control size selection - larger mesh openings generally release more small fish. In the Nephrops fishery, smaller meshed trawls are required to use a panel composed of larger, square mesh netting to facilitate the release of small fish. Certain gear designs take this a stage further and influence the composition of species which are captured. Minimum landings sizes ( MLS) are in place for many species. These are intended to support the mesh regulations and are frequently intended to allow the species to spawn at least once before capture. The utility of MLS regulation is particularly important in some of the shellfish fisheries.
Spatial management measures operate in a number of areas around Scotland and often involve closed areas operating permanently or at strategic times to restrict fishing activity at spawning times or when young fish are present in an area. Some closures, under the Inshore Fishing Scotland Act, operate so as to restrict the use of gears ( e.g. deep suction dredges) in areas where the habitat and associated species are vulnerable.
More recently, difficulties with a number of cod stocks has led to the EU developing cod recovery plans which included an effort management regime. This regime identifies key gears responsible for cod mortality and reduces their activity in a systematic way. In Scottish waters, the two main trawl gear categories (targeting whitefish and Nephrops respectively) fall into this category.
Provisions in the EU cod plan regulation allow for Member States to develop alternative measures to deliver reductions in fishing mortality, and the Scottish fleet has employed various measures under the Conservation Credits Scheme to buy-back fishing effort. One of the principle tools has been the use of Real Time Closures ( RTCs), a system involving short term closures identified in real time from examination of landings and VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) data as areas of highest abundance of cod. Results suggest some reduction in cod catches, although the scale of reduction has so far not delivered a sufficiently large reduction in mortality.
It has long been recognised that the current system of TAC management, which in fact deals with Total Allowable Landings ( TAL), does not adequately control the fishing mortality on fish, and that discarding can result from this. It is widely acknowledged that it would be better if the full catch were to be regulated. In an effort to better account for cod catches, Scotland has been involved in trialling an initiative to operate 'Catch Quotas', in which all the cod catch is landed and reported. Assurance that the whole catch is fully documented is provided by an accompanying system of CCTV on board the trial vessels.
As part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy ( CFP) an agreement was reached to include a landing obligation otherwise known as a discard ban. The unwanted fish may no longer be thrown back into the sea. Instead, all of the catch must be landed and counted against quota. The new CFP came into force on 1 January 2014 ( EU Regulation 1830/2013).
The discard ban is being phased in over a number years, starting in 2015 with pelagic fisheries, being extended to target demersal fisheries in 2016 and being fully implemented across all TAC species by 2019.
The Scottish Government's overall aim is to ensure an effective landing obligation that is implemented in a proportionate and appropriate way. This will include a review of all legislative barriers that currently result in regulatory discarding. Progress is being made towards discard plans covering the regional areas affecting Scottish Fishermen. They will be agreed during 2015.
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