This trial year was like no other due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. No fishing activity was authorised under the trial between 2359 hrs on 31/03/20 – 0001 hrs on 23/06/20 due to the pandemic and initial lockdown. Despite the challenges presented, the trial's objectives continued to be progressed to inform future management options for this fishery.
Marine Scotland (Sea Fisheries Division, Compliance and Science) continued to work closely, yet remotely, with key public sector partners, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS), in particular to ensure that revised and appropriate Covid-19 related protocols were established prior to the trial recommencing in June, for example in relation to dive operations and FSS sampling. Communication was maintained with the fishers by online communication and via the Scottish Razor Clam Association (SRCA).
HSE's programme of ad hoc vessel inspections (on land and at sea) was unavoidably more limited during this reporting year. However, as restrictions eased HSE conducted random Covid-19 inspections onboard vessels. Furthermore, an additional layer of risk assessment is now expected to be carried out by the vessels taking part in the trial to deal with the risk of Covid-19. The safety of personnel who participate in the trial dive operations is paramount, HSE continued to regularly carry out checks on diving qualifications and diving medicals on additional divers who asked dive contractors to join the trial. This, as in previous years, was conducted to ensure all divers notified were suitably qualified and competent before being permitted to participate in the trial.
Covid-19, and the suspension of the trial, presented challenges for FSS harvesting protocols and sampling programmes. FSS developed a 'suspension protocol' to mitigate the risk posed and worked with individual fishers to ensure relevant classifications were in place as soon as possible after the trial recommenced.
In order to gather supplementary information from fishers on the specific impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, a bespoke survey was conducted. The survey also sought to seek information regarding impacts on business related to the EU exit. This included establishing the impact on trade, markets, transport and freight services.