Information

Impact dredging and trawling activity in the Moray Firth: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.


Information requested

If Marine Scotland has carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment to determine what's happening to the land and biodiversity under the inshore waters.

They have also asked to find out if Marine Scotland holds and could provide the following information and data:

  • An Environmental Impact Assessment of bottom trawling on the designated sites in the Moray Firth.
  • Photographic evidence of the condition of the seabed in the Moray Firth over time.
  • Landings data for Burghead Harbour over the last 5 years.
  • Bycatch/discard data for Nephrops and Squid fisheries at Burghead.

Response

An Environmental Impact Assessment of bottom trawling on the designated sites in the Moray Firth.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

However for your information as part of the Bute House Agreement to “deliver fisheries management measures for existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where these are not already in place, as well as key coastal biodiversity locations outside of these sites, by March 2024 at the latest…” we will be undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment of fishing activity in MPAs, including for the designated sites in the Moray Firth. This will form part of the public consultation on those fisheries management measures and will support the final decision on measures by Ministers.

Photographic evidence of the condition of the seabed in the Moray Firth over time.

The Scottish Government does not have any of the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reason why that exception applies is explained below.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public
interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in photographic evidence of the condition of the seabed in Moray Firth over time, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Marine Scotland Science does undertake underwater television Nephrops survey (uwtv) but does not collect photographic images of the sea bed and the video can’t be used to assess condition over time as it does not use the same monitoring sites year on year.

Landings data for Burghead Harbour over the last 5 years.

Please see tables below showing landings data for Burghead Harbour over the last 5 years. One showing tonnage and the other value.

Tonnage landed into Burghead by species type and year, 2017-2021
           
  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Nephrops 303.6 236.4 247.4 192.8 130
Squid or mixed squid/octupi 152.1 159 213 121.8 43.5
Demersal 1 0.4 0.4 1.2 0.1
Other fish and shellfish 5.9 1.4 1.7 0.3 2.3
Total 462.6 397.2 462.6 316.1 175.9
           
Value (£) of fish landed into Burghead by species type and year, 2017-2021
           
  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Nephrops 1,135,939 908,815 889,521 508,977 355,719
Squid or mixed squid/octupi 437,294 495,673 570,197 263,848 107,830
Demersal 1,227 1,199 481 1,424 298
Other fish and shellfish 13,982 9,788 5,238 3,555 15,969
Total 1,588,442 1,415,475 1,465,438 777,805 479,816

Bycatch/discard data for Nephrops and Squid fisheries at Burghead.

Marine Scotland Science calculates annual estimates of the total weight of bycatch (or “unwanted catch” – catch that was not considered suitable for commercial sales) for demersal trawlers and seine netters. These estimates are calculated using data collected at-sea under the scientific observer scheme for sampling biological information on catch under the UK Data Collection Framework (Data Collection Framework - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). This is a statistical survey which covers around 1-2% of demersal trawl and seine fishing trips per year to provide parameters for stock assessments and fishery management. The scientific observers obtain a sample of unwanted catch at the time of sorting, from which they obtain biological information including the species and length of the fish. This information is used in the statistical estimation of bycatch weight by species, area and fishery. The estimates for each calendar year are submitted to International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for use in stock assessments.

The Nephrops and squid fisheries landing into Burghead are part of the wider fisheries in the waters around the Moray and Sutherland coasts, landing into several ports. Bycatch estimates are not calculated for the specific Burghead fisheries.

The Moray Firth squid fishery is sampled only very rarely. No bycatch estimates have been calculated specifically for this fishery, and there is no data for the Burghead fishery.

Estimates of Nephrops bycatch are calculated for the wider Nephrops fishery for the Moray Firth Nephrops stock assessment, using collected mainly from fishing trips landing into Fraserburgh. The Nephrops bycatch estimates are minimal compared to landings and can be found in Table 2 in the ICES advice for the Moray Firth Nephrops stock nep.fu.9 (ices.dk).

Estimates for fish bycatch for the Nephrops fleet are calculated for the whole of the North Sea. These can be provided on request.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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