Chapter 6: Inshore
6.1 The Inshore Fisheries Strategy
The term inshore is often ambiguous. The Scottish Government’s definition of inshore fisheries going forward will be where fishing activity takes place exclusively within 12 nautical miles of the shore. Clarification of this definition is important when identifying structures for stakeholder engagement and policy development.
The Scottish Government’s 2015 Inshore Fisheries Strategy sets out our priorities for improving and enhancing the operation of inshore fisheries. It enables us:
“…to support the development of a more sustainable, profitable and well-managed inshore fisheries sector in Scotland. We will do this by modernising the management of our inshore fisheries in Scotland and reaping long-term sustainable rewards for the inshore sector, the marine environment and our coastal communities.”
Through a defined strategic approach, significant progress has already been made over the last three years. The Scottish Government has for example, introduced a comprehensive package of conservation measures for scallop, crab and lobster sectors. We have also introduced catch limits for unlicensed fishermen, gear marking improvements, and established a razor fish trial.
We are also taking forward Inshore Fisheries Pilots to test a more localised approach to fisheries management and whether greater use of spatial management can yield greater benefits to Scotland. These measures, along with research on the optimal allocation of Nephrops fishing grounds, will help inform how our fishers and communities can make the most of inshore waters.
In addition, our networks of regional inshore fisheries groups are implementing local management plans which give us the opportunity to realise real benefits on the ground.
To help modernise the management of inshore fisheries, the Scottish Government has also facilitated £2.3 m in research funding to improve the fisheries evidence base and enable fishing to better interact with other marine users in the future.
Our outcomes focussed Strategy has three broad themes:
- improving the evidence base on which fisheries management decisions are made;
- streamlining fisheries governance, and promoting stakeholder participation; and
- embedding inshore fisheries management into wider marine planning.
These themes hold true today. The Scottish Government intends to build on the 2015 Inshore Fisheries Strategy and incorporate it into a wider fisheries strategy for Scotland, including legislating to create an appropriate statutory underpinning for future inshore fisheries management.
6.2 Competing marine priorities
Scotland’s inshore waters are rich and diverse. They are also increasingly busy, with many users competing for space in which to operate. Fishing is highly competitive as there is intense competition in Scottish inshore waters between different gear types which often leads to calls for blanket spatial restrictions to be put in place.
However, our knowledge and understanding of the marine environment, habitat and fisheries data has improved a great deal over the last 30 years. Additionally, advances in vessel tracking and monitoring supports a more sophisticated and tailored approach to fisheries management as opposed to national blunt spatial restrictions. But in looking to maximise profit for high value markets and tackle issues of conflict and gear competition between sectors, there may well be scope in some geographical areas to have a separation between mobile and static activity. We intend looking at this to further complement existing pilots to identify significant areas where further separation can be explored.
There is also increasing competition for uses of these waters beyond fishing. These include the introduction of an expansion of the aquaculture sector, marine and coastal tourism and renewable developments.
Recent cases have highlighted that interaction within and between fishing and other users of our inshore waters can be improved.
The Scottish Government believes there is merit in introducing a significant low-impact trial that will separate mobile activity from static gear and recreational users and in doing so we will further consider the merits of specific zones where mobile gear bottom contact fishing will not be permitted.
It would appear that a blanket application of such a measure would not be appropriate, not least given the vastly differing locations of fishing opportunities within distinct geographic areas. We will need to consider the impacts of such a proposal on all affected communities and sectors.
In many cases there is excellent cooperation between different activities and this should not be overlooked. Instances of conflict are often between very small numbers of vessels, including both mobile and static and on a repeat basis. Solutions must be proportionate. Therefore, we will also explore an alternative approach where it is deemed that the actions of these vessels are impacting on Scottish Ministers ability to manage Scottish fisheries effectively by either suspending or permanently removing their licence.
6.3 Inshore Legislation
There are many challenges with managing inshore fisheries, most of which have already been discussed within this paper, including issues around governance, data-poor stocks, monitoring and accountability. There are also other impediments to improving fisheries management for example gear conflict / vandalism and unlicensed fishing activity.
Many of these issues are experienced elsewhere around the globe - some issues are short term in nature, while others are more deep-rooted. Fundamentally, however, current Scottish fisheries legislation is insufficient and does not enable managers to act easily or quickly to tackle challenges.
Existing management systems and licensing arrangements are effectively out of date. Only in Shetland through the Regulating Order can management measures be developed and implemented quickly. If we want to improve our fisheries, and be the best in the world, this needs to change.
There is a compelling case for new legislation to improve the management of Scottish inshore waters. We intend to build on preparatory work undertaken for an inshore fisheries bill, prior to the EU referendum, and incorporate this into wider fisheries legislation.
We will need to balance the desire for local management alongside the principle of free movement of vessels around the coast.
6.4 Reactive Inshore Fisheries Management
To ensure that Scotland creates a world leading inshore fisheries management system, it is essential that Scotland has governance arrangements in place that allow for responsive, adaptable management measures for our sea fisheries that can be tailored to the needs of specific areas.
Elsewhere around the UK specific licences or permits are required to fish in inshore waters or territorial seas. These permits are required in addition to a commercial UK fishing licence. Though the power and scope of these licences/permits varies from case-to-case, in general there has been a move to introduce fishing regulations through conditions attached to licences/permits as opposed to legislation. The benefits of this approach are that controls can be introduced, amended or revoked in a far shorter period of time than is the case with legislation which allows for more timely and responsive management of the fisheries resource.
We propose to follow the example of other parts of the British Isles and introduce a distinct licence or permit system to better regulate fishing activity within the Scottish 12 nautical mile zone. As is the case with licences and permits for Crown Dependency licences, or English IFCA (Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority) permits, these would sit alongside the current UK fishing licence and be required before undertaking any commercial fishing activity. Scottish Ministers could add conditions to these licences to better regulate fishing activity. However, any new fisheries measures would still be subject to the necessary consultation process.