6. Marine Scotland Compliance
Marine Scotland Compliance continue to act upon any intelligence they receive, either direct to the Fishery Office or by way of the Reports of Suspicious Activity Form. There have been no reports of excess creels being deployed, excess soak times or non-derogated vessels operating within the area since November 2020.
Officers at Stornoway Fishery Office have heard anecdotal evidence of increased catch rates for Nephrops, though are mindful that it remains early in the Pilot life cycle to be seeing such pronounced improvements.
Marine assets have been deployed within the Pilot area in line with a risk-based approach to monitoring. This work has tended to involve checking that vessels operating within the area are in possession of a derogation, as well as compliance with the Marking of Creels (Scotland) Order 2020. Boarding Officers have reported a number of instances where advice has been discharged to fishers, but on the whole compliance has been good.
A new iteration of the FISH1 form and associated guidance was issued to industry in August 2021 and aims at further improvements to the accuracy and consistency of data that Marine Scotland collects. The new FISH1 form highlights the correct procedure, that position reports should record where majority of catch was taken rather than where gear was first shot.
In addition to this it is expected that by quarter two of 2022, all 10 metre and under vessel owners will have the option to submit a record of their voyages directly to Marine Scotland via an online web portal, on a voluntary basis.
It is through developments such as these and the use of the Catching App that Marine Scotland are working towards modernisation of the inshore fleet that will yield benefits in the quality of the data captured – reducing duplication and operator error.
Marine Scotland have recently received intelligence suggesting that larger, faster vessels who fished within the Pilot area, have now relocated beyond its Northern extremities and the East side of the Minch in order to avoid gear limitation. The static fleet feel that this is causing even more competition for seabed space and has already impacted on their ability to move gear around as they would like.
The mobile sector is also reporting seeing more static gear on their tows and feel that this is due to vessels being displaced from within the Pilot area to new grounds.
While the resultant increase in creel numbers is not wholly down to vessels displaced from inside the Pilot area, in considering its usefulness, it is important to remain alert to the possibility of negative knock-on effects. In this case, where the original Pilot proposal covered a far bigger area, restricting it to the East side of the isles may progressively lead to the creation of other areas of intense fishing effort.
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