“Q1. Please provide information to describe, in general terms, the aims of the various Marine Protected Areas (MPA) as designated by the Scottish Government.
Q2. Please confirm whether fishing is allowed in designated MPAs.
Q3. Please provide information on whether fishing is allowed in the West of Scotland Marine Protected Area and if so, provide details of what type of fishing is permitted.
Q4. During the period 27th December 2022 – January 5th 2023, the Dutch-owned MV Margiris, a super-trawler fishing vessel, length 142m and net size 600m long x 200m wide, was shown to be located off the Outer Hebrides (online ‘ship locator’ application - VesselTracker). Please confirm whether the activity of this fishing vessel was being monitored during Dec/Jan by Marine Scotland Compliance.
Q5. During the period 27th Dec –Jan 5th and as indicated on the online ‘VesselTracker’ the FV Margiris appeared to be fishing within the West of Scotland Marine Protected Area. Is the Scottish Government/Marine Scotland Compliance able to confirm whether or not the FV Margiris was involved with fishing activity within the West of Scotland Marine Protected Area and please confirm whether any on-board inspection was undertaken during this period.
Q6. Please provide any information available to describe what type of fish stock is being taken in the area around the West of Scotland Marine Protected Area.
Q7. In early January 2023 a number of large super-trawler fishing vessels were operating in the waters to the west of Shetland. These included the Dutch fishing vessel Dirk Dirk (94m), Maartje Theadora (140m), H72 Frank Bonefaas (119m), Helen Mary (117m), Astrid (92m), Annie Hillina (86m) and the Prins Bernhard (88m), as well as a further 9 smaller fishing vessels in the general area. Please confirm whether the activity of all these fishing vessels was being monitored during January by Marine Scotland Compliance and whether any on-board inspections were required to be undertaken.
Q8. Please provide any information available to describe what type of fish stock is being taken in this area to the west of Shetland.
Q9. On the 6th of January 2023 the Russian super-trawler fishing vessel ‘Zamoskvorechye’ (105m) was fishing in waters further to the west of Shetland, designated a ‘Special Area’. Please provide information to explain the mechanism under which this Russian fishing vessel is operating in UK waters which, as I understand, is connected to a ‘Fisheries agreement’ implemented by the Faroese Government.
Q10. Please provide any information available to describe what type of fish stock is being taken in the area designated as a ‘Special Area’ between Shetland and the Faroes.”
As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
This exemption 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 exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
Response to your request
Some of the information you have requested is available online and relevant links to resources has been provided below. Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy. In relation to questions 1, 2 and 3 I have also provided the following links to online resources;
- Information is available on the Scottish Government webpages on information of the aims of Marine Protected Areas: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - Marine environment - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
- Site Link website provides access to data and information on key protected areas across Scotland for further information on Marine Protected Areas: Sitelink - Home (nature.scot).
- All management within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are also available for view and download from https://spatialdata.gov.scot/geonetwork/srv/eng/catalog.search#/metadata/Marine_Scotland_FishDAC_1630.
- Fishing within MPAs is allowed and spatial data held by Marine Scotland for closed/restricted areas for fishing is available to download from SpatialData.gov.scot.
- This information can be visualised on Marine Scotland Maps (NMPi), most easily via the links on Marine Scotland Information, available here Fishing - managed areas | Marine Scotland Information.
- All areas where fishing is managed within Scottish waters are available for view and download from https://spatialdata.gov.scot/geonetwork/srv/eng/catalog.search#/metadata/Marine_Scotland_FishDAC_1306.
- Further information of all areas where fishing with pelagic trawl nets are restricted is available to view and download from Marine Scotland - National Marine Plan Interactive (atkinsgeospatial.com).
As a further update, under the commitments of the Bute House Agreement in 2021 the Scottish Government committed to deliver fisheries management measures for existing Marine Protected Area (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, directly following the conclusion of the required statutory consultation processes. These measures will give protection for MPA features, as well as those priority marine features identified as most at risk from bottomcontacting mobile fishing gear outwit MPAs. In addition the Scottish government are also adding to the existing MPA network by designating a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas by 2026.
The following response is provided to questions 4, 5 and 7 relating to the activity of particular vessels.
Q4. Marine Scotland’s 24-hour UK Fisheries Monitoring Centre (UKFMC) monitored the activity of this vessel and others involved in the seasonal mackerel fishery off the North west of Lewis during this period.
Q5. Marine Scotland can confirm that no boardings of vessels were possible off the West coast of Scotland due to weather conditions at that time of year. Analysis of the data relating to the Margiris indicates that the vessel was undertaking fishing activity. No offences were detected.
Q7. Marine Scotland’s surveillance aircraft monitored this fleet of vessels fishing the seasonal mackerel fishery off the West of Shetland. All vessels named were sighted during flights between 1 and 6 times. Additionally, the UKFMC and coastal officers also remotely monitored this fleet by analysing satellite tracking data and statutory electronic logs which have to be submitted daily. Unfortunately, it was not possible to board any of these vessels at sea due to weather conditions at that time of year.
In response to question 6, 8, 9 and 10 online resources have been provided relating to these questions along with an additional policy information. In answering questions 6, 8 and 10 we have interpreted “what type of fish stock” to mean what type of fish species within this question.
For question 6 and 8, data on fish landed from Scottish waters is already publicly available. Each year the Scottish Government publishes the Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics which summarises a range of information included species and volume of fish landed. The most recent version of this can be found online at the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-sea-fisheries-statistics-2021/. Table 31 provides the details on species landed by ICES area which we have interpreted as the information you are seeking as to the fish being taken around the area the West of Scotland MPA and the area to the west of Shetland. Also available is the UK quote determination documents available here: Fishing opportunities for British fishing boats - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). This links further sets out which species can be fished in different areas by UK vessels, which is relevant to questions 6,8, and 10.
In response to questions 9 and 10, Russian vessels are able to operate within UK/ Faro Special Area under Faroese authority, as a result of the following agreements:
- Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the Home Government of the Faroe Islands, on the one hand, and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on the other hand relating to the Maritime Delimitation in the Area between the Faroe Island and the United Kingdom (1999): Law of the sea bulletin. (un.org).
- Protocol Agreement with Faroe Islands on Maritime Delimitation: UK/Denmark: Protocol to Agreement with Faroe Islands on Maritime Delimitation [CS Denmark No.1/2013] - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Faroe Islands / Russian Federation bilateral agreement for 2023: Sáttmálar og semjur 2023 - Fiskivinnuogsamferðslumálaráðið
The Special Area is an area of water overlapping both UK (Scottish) and Faroese waters, which both countries claim, and over which both countries are entitled to exercise jurisdiction. Russian vessels operating in this area are doing so solely under the authorisation of the Faroe Islands. The UK has no bilateral fisheries agreement with the Russian Federation and the Scottish Government do not authorise Russian vessels to fish within UK waters.
Under the terms of the 1990 Agreement between the Faroese and UK Governments relation to the Maritime Delimitation, both countries can issue fishing licences, including to third country vessels, which include the risk to fish within the Special Area, Neither Party can prevent or impede the other from issuing such licences. Through the bilateral arrangements in place between the Faroe Islands and the Russian Federation (RF) for 2023, the RF is granted access to fish certain quotas within Faroese waters; this includes implicit access to the waters of the Special Area. A key fishery for the RF vessels in the Special Area is blue whiting, which is primarily fished in these waters during April and May.
Whilst the Scottish Government fully recognise that the Faroese Government has the right to licence third country vessels to fish in the Special Area, Scottish Ministers are deeply troubled by Russian vessels fishing in an area which forms part of Scottish waters. Ministers do not condone or support the continuation of any activities which will deliver economic benefit to the Russian Federation at a time when their unlawful invasion of a sovereign state continue to pose such a threat to the global order. Discussions with the Faroe Islands on this matter are ongoing.
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.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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