Management Proposals of Inshore Fisheries Groups

Consultation on the initiatives developed by Inshore Fisheries Groups with the potential for environmental impact.

Non-Technical Summary


1. Marine Scotland is consulting on the proposals in the Inshore Fisheries Groups ( IFGs) Management Plans that may have a significant environmental effect. These proposals have been subject to a strategic environmental assessment ( SEA), and the results are set out in the Environmental Report. This document is the Non-Technical Summary of that Environmental Report.

The IFG Management Proposals

2. The Strategic Framework for Scottish Inshore Fisheries established six pilot Inshore Fisheries Groups ( IFGs), who have prepared Management Plans for their areas (Outer Hebrides; Clyde; South East; North West; Small Isles and Mull; and Moray Firth IFGs). In general the proposals in the plans cover the following areas of activity:

  • activities to support the opening of new and/or closed fisheries, including the collection of baseline information.
  • fisheries management measures e.g. permit control, increases in minimum landing sizes, restrictions on gear, reduction of discards/bycatch
  • conflict resolution mechanisms e.g. codes of conduct
  • economic activities e.g. marketing, labelling, sustainable fisheries accreditation, measures to support economic diversification

3. As part of the Inshore Fisheries Strategy 2012, Scottish Ministers will support and focus on the priorities identified in the IFG Management Plans.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment

4. SEA identifies the likely environmental impacts of plans and policies, and alternatives to them. SEA provides opportunities for the public, including those who might be affected by the proposals, to consider this information and use it to inform their views.

5. Some of the IFG management proposals are considered to have no or minimal environmental effects, for example, measures relating to marketing. These will be implemented locally by the IFGs. The remainder (Tables 1a and 1b) have the potential to give rise to significant environmental effects and it is these that have been subject to SEA, in accordance with the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.

6. The SEA has focused on potential effects on biodiversity, flora and fauna 1 , climate change and the marine historic environment.

Table 1a. Strategic actions with potential for significant environmental effects



Focus of Action Potential Effect?


Small Isles & Mull

Outer Hebrides

Moray Firth

South East

North West

Fisheries accreditation

sustainability accreditation


Increase minimum landing size

Brown Crab

population management


Velvet Crab






Crawfish (Establish best practice maximum landing size)

* √


Razor fish (from 110mm to 175mm)


return and v-notch berried lobsters


Return berried creel caught Nephrops


Crawfish - no landing of berried females


Lobsters - reduce maximum landing size for females


Velvet Crab - return berried females


Evaluate effects of increased creel mesh size & escape panels


Develop Mackerel and/or Herring Fishery

new fishery


Establish a small scale sprat fishery

new fishery


Investigate whether existing fisheries can be developed based on sound management (Squid, Cockles)

fishery development

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

Razorfish - In addition to local reporting wider scientific research programme and investigate the potential for specialised gear to be developed and used in razor fishery

fishery development

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

Clam fishery - Investigate whether existing fishery can be developed based on sound management

fishery development

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

Participate in national and regional management of Nephrops

fisheries management

Investigate separate management of Moray Firth functional unit

fisheries management

Investigate static gear only zones for Nephrops in areas with multiple resource use

fisheries management

Hobby fishermen - controlling or monitoring of activity

1. Creel limits need clear signage and/or quota restrictions

2. Monitor activity and ensure clear creel marking

3. Lobster/Crabs/ Scallops

√ (1)

√ (2)

√ (3)

population management

Uncertain; may benefit

Access/regulatory measures for licensed fishermen in IFG areas

Cap creel vessel numbers

population management


Nephrops permits; closed areas


Introduce permit for shell fisheries


Effort control within shellfish licensed fleet


Review access arrangements in all fisheries ( e.g. zoning/spatial management & consultation code)


Table 1b. Scientific surveys/ development of new fisheries/ management measures with potential for significant environmental effects


Strategic Action

Focus of Action

Potential effect?


Data gathering in order to develop fishery with appropriate stock assessment, management systems and measures (Cockles, Mussels, Winkles, Oysters, Scallops, Razorfish)

Data gathering in order to develop pilot fisheries with appropriate management measures (Brown shrimp, Paelamon Prawns, Squat lobsters, Otter shell, other Bivalves)

Reduce discards - cod recovery

fishery development

identification of fisheries management measures

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

Moray Firth

Explore funding for new fishing techniques/trials

Stock assessments and under-utilised species

Sprat fishery - determine and evaluate the economic viability of development of sprat fishery within the area

Whelk - Investigate whelk stock in area

Lobster - Establish lobster stock's status to establish possible management measures

Green Crab - establish importance of commercial fishery

Mussel - determine if significant sub tidal mussel beds exist with the MFIFG area

establish importance of commercial fishery within area to determine developing opportunities

Native Oyster - Investigate whether existing fishery can be developed based on sound management

Queen scallop - establish if scallops can be developed as a targeted fishery or form a by-catch from other fishing activity

Plaice - establish stocks in local area

Clam - identify stocks within the area and determine if existing fishery can be developed

Seek to secure appropriate funding and support for the development of sustainable fishing techniques, exploratory fishery trials, stock assessment/dynamic research and market evaluation of market opportunities for under-utilised species

Investigate the potential for jigging and squid fishery

Monitor by catch discards

Explore limiting quota allocation or specifying gear type to reduce by-catch/discards/poor stock quality

Haddock - develop reporting system to record discard levels and develop management measures haddock by catch

Landing and supporting infrastructure - ensure requirements of fishing fleet are identified

fishery development

new fishing techniques

identification of fisheries management measures

potential infrastructure proposals

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

South East

Scientific survey to establish whether a fishery can be established (Bivalve, Sprat, Brown/Pink shrimp, Smelt)

New fisheries & unmanaged fisheries - Surveys to collect baseline data which can be used to calculate fishing effort. These methods can better ensure sustainable fishing

Investigate winter cod fishery

Lobster stock enhancement

fishery development

identification of fisheries management measures

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

Outer Hebrides

Establish a small scale mackerel and herring fishery

Squid - seek review of current prohibitions

Brown shrimp - identify vessels to take part in pilot fishery

Cockles - Develop cockle fisheries - surveys of cockle beds

Razorfish - Stock surveys to develop fishery

Support fuel efficiency measures

Promote use of eco - dredge; scallop dredgers to work to UK Scallop Code of Conduct

Support for new gear for pilot fisheries

fishery development

energy management

fisheries techniques

identification of fisheries management measures

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

Small Isles and Mull

Squid and Crawfish - Pilot fisheries with Marine Scotland observers to gather data

Velvet crab - establish scientific base for fishery

Wrasse fishery - Establish scientific base to identify management requirements in the developing wrasse fishery

Catch sampling of crab, lobster, velvet crab and Nephrops

Ensure appropriate use of collected fisheries data

fishery development

identification of fisheries management measures

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

North West

Wrasse - Ensure any potential wrasse fishery is carried out responsibly

Determine biological status of stocks (Brown crab, Velvet crab)

Scallops - Investigate cause of scallop decline

fishery development

identification of fisheries management measures

mix: potential adverse and beneficial effects on biodiversity and fish stocks

State of the Environment

7. Scotland's seas are among the most biologically diverse and productive in the world, supporting an estimated 6,500 species of marine animals and plants.

8. Scotland's marine biodiversity is protected by a range of European, UK and Scottish-level designations. Key habitat types include estuaries; lagoons; large shallow inlets and bays; mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide; reefs; sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time; submarine structures made by leaking gases; and submerged or partially submerged sea caves. Key animal species include cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), seals, seabirds, fish (including sharks, skates and rays), and turtles.

9. Scotland's seas are mostly classed as being of good or better status under the Water Framework Directive. There are some poorer quality waters in certain areas, such as the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. The key risks to the quality of the water environment are from contamination as a result of marine activities such as the use of anti-fouling paint, pollution from oil spillage and sewage, and pollution of coastal waters resulting from activities on land, in particular from agricultural activities.

10. Climate change is predicted to lead to an increase in water temperature and acidity, a rise in sea levels, changes in wave heights and changes to our coastlines. Greenhouse gas emissions from the fishing fleet are influenced by a number of factors including abundance of fish (stocks), the steaming distance to fishing grounds and the size of boats and type of fishing gear.

11. Scotland's seas and coasts support a wide range of historic and archaeological sites. These are found on the foreshore and the seabed, ranging from the remains of ships and aircraft lost at sea to harbours, lighthouses and other structures along the coast.


12. There are many pressures on marine biodiversity. Pressures from fishing and climate change are described in Box 1. Management of fisheries can be undertaken to address biodiversity issues; for example, there are restrictions on catching sandeels off the east coast of Scotland to protect seabird populations; in some areas the use of bottom trawling or similar towed nets is prohibited, to protect deep-sea habitats such as corals and sponges.

13. Fishing methods that affect the seabed can also result in the damage and/or loss of historic environment features. Conversely, such sites have the potential to be a hazard for other marine users, for example, through snagging fishing nets and obstructing navigation.

Box 1. Pressures on marine biodiversity

Commercial fishing:

  • removal of target fish species may affect the sustainability of fish stocks
  • discards of fish are a waste of the resource, and also encourage scavenger species
  • bycatch inadvertently catches both non-target fish and other species, generally leading to the death of individuals and subsequent decline in populations
  • the seabed and its benthic habitat may be damaged by mobile fishing gear, with the consequent loss of marine plants and animals
  • removal of target species may also decrease the availability of prey species, leading to declines in populations e.g. of birds

Non-native invasive species may outcompete native species, thereby displacing them from the marine environment.

Marine litter can result in the injury and/or death of marine animals

Climate change, through increasing sea temperatures, acidification, changes to rainfall patterns, etc:

  • may result in populations of marine animals and plants moving further north
  • may give rise to population decline
  • may result in new competitors arriving in Scottish waters, including non-native invasive species

The Results of the SEA

14. This SEA has undertaken a high-level assessment of the IFG management proposals. A summary is provided in the following paragraphs.


15. The key issues for biodiversity from fishing are:

  • The removal of stock, with direct effects on populations and indirect effects on predators
  • Bycatch, both fish and other species such as birds and cetaceans
  • Damage to the seabed and benthic communities from fishing gear, particularly trawling and dredging gear

16. Some of the proposals are likely to contribute to the maintenance of fish stocks, e.g. measures to increase minimum landing size, to v-notch and return "berried" fish ( i.e. females with eggs) and to manage bycatch and discards. This will depend on how they are implemented. For example, increasing minimum landing size may help to improve stocks, as long as there is no increase in the catch of the larger shellfish. For Nephrops, it may be necessary to increase the mesh sizes of fishing gear, to allow undersized individuals to escape. Proposals for new fisheries may reduce pressures on other stocks, providing that stock levels are currently able to support new fisheries. However, if these measures were to increase total fishing activity (and catch) on all stock, this could increase the pressure on stocks and ecosystems and be detrimental.

17. There are few measures proposed that would reduce damage to the seabed, apart from those which propose to investigate "static gear only" zones for Nephrops in areas with multiple resource use, and to explore funding for new fishing techniques/trials. The effect of proposed static sector controls on the seabed is uncertain, as there is little evidence to suggest that disruption of the seabed from creels is significant. In consequence, the possible benefit of reducing fishing intensity (through reducing creel numbers) is uncertain. Larger benefits may occur, should these measures extend to other methods of fishing as well, e.g. bottom trawling.

18. The proposal to promote the use of an eco-dredge is a measure that may have a positive effect, through the reduction of damage to the seabed. However, this gear is still in development and its effectiveness remains to be proven. The accompanying proposal that fishermen should work to the UK Scallop Code of Conduct (the UK Scallop Industry Good Practice Guide) may also have such benefits. However, although the negative effects of scallop dredging may be reduced, there will likely remain some impact on the seabed and the habitat that it supports.

19. Some of the effects on biodiversity are uncertain. For example, the proposals for controls on the static sector (such as the introduction of creel limits) may have a beneficial effect where at present few or no management measures are in place, by providing management and protecting stocks. (Note that Nephrops are fished against quota.) However, it is not clear that control of the creel fishery alone would improve shellfish stocks, given that mobile gear is used by 20% of the inshore fleet, and these vessels catch many more fish and shellfish.

20. Any proposals to open new wrasse fisheries in support of aquaculture (to effect biological control of sea lice) will need to be carefully considered in terms of sustainability of wild stocks. It is recognised that wild populations alone are unlikely to be able to sustain such a requirement and data gathering will be required to assist with improved understanding of stocks and biology.

21. The proposal to pursue sustainable fisheries accreditation may have positive effects on biodiversity in general and stock levels in particular, given that the principles of sustainable accreditation schemes include that a fishery must be conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing or depletion of exploited stocks, and should allow for the maintenance of the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends. The latter may also result in reduced damage to the seabed from trawling and dredging activities.

Climate Change

22. Proposed measures to support fuel efficiency through, for example, the use of lighter gear, or investigating the possibility of using alternative fuels such as hydrogen, have the potential for a positive effect on climatic factors, through the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Future iterations of the IFG Management Plans would likely benefit from considering the impact of climate change on inshore fisheries, e.g. in terms of trip length, catch volumes, etc.

Cultural Heritage

23. None of the proposals are directed to the enhancement of the historic marine environment or the avoidance of coastal and marine archaeology. Any measures that will maintain and protect the integrity of the seabed will be of benefit to the historic environment, through reducing loss of and/or damage to features of importance. Some of the proposals may reduce damage to the seabed, through changes in gear type or intensity. The key proposal with benefits for the historic environment is fishery accreditation.


24. The proposal to ensure that the landing and infrastructure requirements of the fishing fleet are identified may have negative effects, particularly during construction, e.g. the loss of and/or damage to habitat and/or marine archaeology, disturbance of fish and mammals, increased pollution risks, etc. It is likely that such development would require planning and/or licensing consent, and such negative environmental effects would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis as part of this process.

Cumulative Effects

25. The potential for cumulative environmental effects of the proposals has been considered. Some of the proposals are likely to complement one other and result in a significant positive effect. For example, increasing minimum landing size, the v-notching and return of berried fish, and seeking fisheries accreditation should lead to a greater positive effect on stocks. This would also be supported by measures to reduce bycatch and/or discards.

26. Few of the proposals would increase damage to the seabed, apart from proposals to open new cod fisheries, and the effect of this would depend on the gear to be used. However, there are few measures proposed to reduce damage to the seabed, apart from exploration of funding to support gear change and support for use of the eco-dredge


27. Taken together, some of the proposals may result in positive effects on fish stocks, depending on how they are implemented. There are few measures proposed that would reduce damage to the seabed, and few resulting benefits for the seabed and its biodiversity and historic environment interests. Proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will be of benefit to climate change. A key measure with overall benefits is the proposal to pursue sustainable fisheries accreditation.

28. It should be noted, however, that implementation of this and many other of these measures will require substantial data gathering and analysis, both for existing stocks and potential new ones. It is likely that this will require significant time and resources, and the potential environmental benefits are therefore more likely to be realised in the long-term, rather than immediately.

29. It should also be noted that, although the majority (over 75%) of inshore fishermen use static gear, principally creels, it is not the only form of fishing with an environmental impact on inshore waters. Mobile gear, especially dredges and trawls, is used by some 20% of vessels and these vessels catch many more fish and shellfish. They also have an impact on the marine environment and there will be an expectation that mobile fishing would feature more prominently in IFGs' considerations in the future.

Next Steps

30. Marine Scotland will take into account views raised in response to the consultation on the IFG management proposals and the Environmental Report, in deciding whether and/or how the proposals should be progressed.

31. A Post-Adoption Statement will be published once the consultation analysis is complete and decisions have been made. This will explain how issues raised in the environmental assessment, and associated views in response to the consultation, have been addressed.

32. Views on the IFG management proposals and the findings of the SEA are now being sought. Please provide your comments to the Inshore Fisheries Team (mailbox), by 10 October 2013. Comments in writing should be made to:

Inshore Fisheries Groups
Marine Scotland
Area 1-B South
Victoria Quay

or to

34. Copies of the IFG Management Plan Proposals and the Environmental Report are available for viewing, during office hours, in the library at Saughton House:

Scottish Government,
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

35. If you have any enquiries please send them to or telephone 0131 244 4421.


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