Offshore MPA Fisheries Measures: West Shetland Shelf - 27 January 2022

Pre-Consultation Engagement with Fisheries Stakeholders on Offshore Management Measures for the West Shetland Shelf Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Attendees and apologies

List of attendees

  • Marine Scotland (MS)
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF)
  • Scottish Whitefish Producers’ Association (SWPA)
  • Orkney Fisheries Association
  • Shetland Fishermen’s Association
  • Offshore fisheries representatives

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Marine Scotland welcomed everyone to the meeting to discuss the proposed management measures for the West Shetland Shelf Marine Protected Area (MPA) with fisheries stakeholders. Introductions were made by each individual in attendance.


No actions

Outline of background to measures and site information

Marine Scotland presented a PowerPoint presentation to give a brief overview of the process behind offshore fisheries management measures within MPAs so far. This included the timeline for the designation of management measures, and a reminder of stakeholder meetings to date. Marine Scotland then outlined specific site information for the West Shetland Shelf MPA. This included the reason for designation as an MPA, the status of management measures including voluntary measures, and the reasoning behind proposed management measures. The meeting was then opened up for discussion on the management measures. 

Discussion on proposed management measures   

West Shetland Shelf MPA

Proposed measures by Marine Scotland: Closure to demersal trawl, seine net, beam trawl, and dredge in 50.7% of the site.

Comments and questions:

  • clarification required of site features on map
    • MS and JNCC clarified the feature requiring protection does cover the whole site. It was highlighted it would be useful to know if some areas are more important to fisheries than others
  • stakeholder highlighted there are other sites in Scotland protecting the same feature. The status of the feature at this site is categorised as ‘favourable’, and suggestion was made that it does not need such a high level of protection. Also given the relatively low risk, perhaps considering adaptive management which includes a review period
  • a stakeholder commended that the most appropriate outcome would be a continuation of the voluntary agreement process but restrictions on mobile gear would unlikely be as much as 50%. A fixed closure area for mobile gear would mean that creels in any six-month period could be looking to access the same grounds that mobile gear are on, causing great difficulties
  • a stakeholder commended that the current voluntary agreement has been working for the industry and it is as much of a safety issue as it is an issue about access
  • stakeholders highlighted noted that having the flexibility that the voluntary agreement provides is important to industry and they would like to see that continue. The site an important crab fishing ground but it is inaccessible to many static gear fishers during the winter months because of the weather
    • MS/JNCC clarified the process for the selection of this site. The EU Cod Stock Recovery restrictions closed this site to mobile gear from 2003-2019, which reduced gear conflict by restricting trawling and allowed conservation of cod stocks. When assessing the conservation objectives data on feature and the activity within the site was assessed and classed the sites as ‘favourable’ condition. We are now trying to manage the activity that has occurred subsequently
  • a stakeholder highlighted concern about displacement of mobile gear and the consequences that could have for gear conflicts and the environment. Additional point noted that static creel fishers may need some protection.
    • MS confirmed that the Sustainability Appraisal currently being undertaken will assess the impact of displacement across all offshore sites
    • it is noted that industry is in agreement for the continuation of a voluntary agreement
    • the recovery times for some features are longer than the six month period that the current voluntary agreement allows for
    • MS are open to discussions on options available for the site, including maintaining some kind of voluntary agreement alongside the MPA measures to avoid gear conflict issues, and will be consulting JNCC to ensure suggestions meet the conservation objectives
  • a stakeholder suggested that 20-30% of the site could be closed to mobile gear 100% of the time, and another 20% or so could be closed on a six-monthly basis
    • MS highlighted the need to discuss what is needed to meet the objectives of the site and also identify the priority areas are for different gears at different times, to enable us to potentially investigate a zoning approach
  • a stakeholder stated it needs to be determined whether the current voluntary agreements are impacting the features or not before the end of the process to implement management measures
    • MS/JNCC highlighted that that recovery period of the communities that occur within this site can have a 2-10 year recovery period. The voluntary measures every six months may still allow degradation of the communities because there isn’t sufficient time to recover

Marine Scotland displayed the MPA and VMS point data for mobile gear that have access through 2019-2021 showing the middle of the site appearing more heavily fished by mobile gear during that period

  • a stakeholder highlighted the first agreement started in August 2019 and the area to the west of that central VMS data was a trawl area only. It extends to slightly east of where that activity is shown on the map on screen. The following year there may have been joint access
  • a stakeholder highlighted the central area showing most activity is predominantly a clean net trawl area for boats
    • MS highlighted that the central area were there appears to be the most trawling activity is the shared area by trawls and static gear in the voluntary agreement. If this is an important area for trawls options can be investigated for keeping the central area open. The features for protection are fairly uniform across the site and so there is flexibility in discussions to accommodate fishing activity
  • a stakeholder stated that decisions should not be based on the data presented because it is outside of the time range of this VMS data, there is activity elsewhere within the site
    • MS reiterated a request for information regarding the most important areas for creel fishers within the site
  • a stakeholder highlighted that both east and west areas of the site are priority areas for creels, but at different times of year and flexibility of fishing grounds is important. Fish east side in winter for access in poor weather, fish west side in summer months
  • Marine Scotland requested clarification whether it was the whole east side that is important for creels or just a certain areas
    • clarification was that it varies year on year depending on the crabs movements which the voluntary agreement takes account of. It removed the top triangle on the east side because it was deemed not as important for creels as it had been in previous years. However in most recent years, it has been the more rectangular area in the east that is of most importance, and not the triangle towards the northern edge
  • stakeholders stated it would be possible to come up with an area of 50% which is most important to mobile gears before next industry voluntary agreement meeting and discuss what problems might cause for the agreement if the access area is reduced in size. However need to consider the impact on static gear
    • MS agreed that if both sectors could provide information on priority areas, we can work from there to determine where may be the best location for the management measures
  • a stakeholders stated an in-person meeting would be required to have a more productive conversation on site measures
    • MS agreed that an in-person meeting would be preferred and will be arranged (pending approval) for after the voluntary agreement meeting of mobile and static sectors planned for late February 2022
  • clarification required on how far ahead would a new voluntary agreement look compared to the current one that is reviewed every six months?
    • MS clarified that for the fisheries management measures for the MPA these should be in place by the middle of 2023. The current voluntary approach would need to be maintained until then. There could be an option for a new voluntary agreement adopted alongside the fisheries management measures to avoid gear conflict in areas that are not closed to mobile gear
  • clarification required over the implementation date of fisheries management measures
    • MS confirmed deadline for the fisheries management measures implementation, as stated in the Bute House Agreement is March 2024. The offshore MPA management measures are currently planned to be implemented by end of 2023 and to avoid overlap with Inshore fisheries management measures
  • clarification on when final management measures will be seen
    • MS clarified that these are the current proposed management measures as shown in this meeting. Following the Sustainability Appraisal (which includes the socioeconomic impact assessment and environmental impact assessment) there will be a public consultation for further opportunity to comment


Stakeholders to share information with MS on the key fishing areas across the site for static and mobile fishing. To be submitted to A deadline for this will be shared as soon as possible.  

MS to organise an in-person meeting to discuss site use in-depth with industry, following discussions between static/mobile gear representatives discussions to be held late February.

Conculsions and close

Marine Scotland asked stakeholders to share information on the areas that are most important to both mobile and static fishing if they are happy to do so. Once the meeting has taken place on the current voluntary agreement, Marine Scotland plan to hold an in-person meeting, possibly in Aberdeen, to work towards finalising what the site might look like prior to the sustainability appraisal.

Marine Scotland highlight that they are happy to talk to any stakeholders who were not able to attend today’s meeting.

Marine Scotland thanked attendees for their time and input in today’s meetings discussions.

Close of meeting.

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