Sandeel fishing consultation: draft partial business and regulatory impact assessment

The draft partial business and regulatory impact assessment for the consultation on proposals to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters.


Option 0: Do Nothing

There is not expected to be any additional benefits of continuing with the current status quo of not allocating sandeel quota to UK vessels. For Scottish businesses, both catching and onshore, the current practices would remain unchanged. There would be no environmental benefits.

Option 1: Complete closure of all Scottish waters to sandeel fishing (preferred option)

The extension of the current closure to all waters, is associated with a number of potential benefits to the sandeel stock and the wider marine ecosystem.

The sandeel areas that would be directly impacted by the closure in Scottish waters are situated within the ICES areas of IVa, IVb and IVc, as shown below in Figures 2 and 3.

Figure 2: Map of sandeel areas in the North Sea and Skagerrak

A map of the North Sea showing the seven sandeel management areas delimited by black lines. Area 1r is central and southern North Sea/Dogger Bank, 2r is central and southern North Sea, 3r is northern and central North Sea/ Skagerrak, 4 is northern and central North Sea, 5r is northern North Sea/Viking and Bergen banks, 6 is Skagerrak, Kattegat and Belt Sea and 7r is northern North Sea/Shetland. The closure within sandeel area 4 is depicted by a small red box.

Figure 3: Map of ICES rectangles around UK EEZ

A map showing the ICES rectangles around the UK EEZ. IVa is located in the North Sea, covering the north-eastern coast of the Scottish mainland, Orkney and Shetland. IVb covers the eastern coast of Great Britain, from Aberdeen to the Humber estuary. IVc covers south-eastern England, from the Humber estuary south.

The following section considers the benefits of the preferred option only: complete closure of the Scottish sandeel fishery.

  • Sandeel: The extended closure would cover all of the sandeel fishing grounds in Scottish waters of sandeel area 4. Restricting sandeel fishing in Scottish waters therefore may benefit the health of the stock, which may lead to an increase in abundance.
  • Seabirds, whitefish species and marine mammals: Sandeel is a key prey species for some seabird species (e.g., as kittiwakes, guillemots, puffins, and gannets), whitefish species (cod, whiting, haddock) and marine mammals (grey and harbour seals, harbour porpoises)[10] which are present in the area that would be included in this closure. Restricting sandeel fishing will also reduce bycatches of whiting and mackerel, as these bycatches are currently taken in the sandeel fishery and counted against the sandeel quota.
  • Marine Protected Areas: The extension to all Scottish waters would mean that the closure would cover all MPAs in Scottish waters, including those in which seabirds and marine mammals are a protected feature. This also includes MPAs designated due to the importance of sandeel populations (e.g., Mousa to Boddam, North West Orkney and Turbot Bank).
  • Good Environmental Status: As of October 2019, the UK has not achieved Good Environmental Status (GES) for breeding seabirds and for harbour seals in the North Sea. Better management of sandeel fisheries in Scottish waters could contribute to achieving GES for these receptors.[11]

Option 2: Extension of the existing closure to all of sandeel management area 4 only

The option of extending the existing closure to all of sandeel area 4 is not expected to bring the same benefits as a complete closure. There could be a reduction in pressure on the sandeel stock, however this could be offset by displacement into other areas.

Option 3: Seasonal closure of the sandeel fishery

A seasonal closure has the potential to reduce the pressure on the sandeel stock, but there are environmental concerns that the seasonal nature of the fishery could change over time.

Option 4: Voluntary closure of the sandeel fishery

The benefits of a voluntary approach could span from low to high, dependant on industry buy-in.



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