Fishing limits fight set for Holyrood

Prawns and scallops account for almost all the Clyde's fishing industry.
Prawns and scallops account for almost all the Clyde's fishing industry.

Fishing industry representatives and conservation groups will head to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday as MSPs prepare to discuss controversial proposalsfor new limits on commercial trawling in the Firth of Clyde.

Holyrood’s rural affairs, climate change and environment committee will hear evidence on Wednesday from environment minister Richard Lochhead before deciding whether to recommend proposed changes to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Firth for parliamentary approval.

The committee’s decision on Wednesday is not directly related to the proposed Rgulating Order which was the focus of coverage in The Buteman earlier this month, although the decision - whatever it is - will still have significant consequences for fish stocks and the future of the Firth’s commercial fishing industry.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, urged the committee to “put livelihoods and communities before green politicking”.

Referring to a proposal to ban all commercial trawling around the south end of Arran, Mr Armstrong said: “We fully support the concept of MPAs and have long campaigned for the need of conservation zones to meet core sustainability and environmental objectives.

“However, the South Arran MPA as it stands goes far beyond what was agreed upon during the initial consultation.

“Instead, we have a purely political decision of an overly restrictive MPA made to appease the green lobby, rather than a common sense management arrangement that would have conserved vulnerable habitats whilst protecting fishing communities at the same time.”

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor wants management measures for 14 MPAs, including that around the south end of Arran, to be annulled.

Howard Wood, a spokesperson for the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), which is campaigning in favour of the new MPAs and plans to hold a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, said: “It is time that the Clyde and Scotland’s seas were sustainably managed. The Clyde has the potential to be much more than just a prawn fishery and to support far more fishing and marine jobs.

“Marine Scotland economists estimate that only 3 per cent of turnover will be affected and even this can be off-set by fishing elsewhere.

“MPAs will also create new jobs in the creel and dive sector, not to mention angling and tourism.

“Continued delays are at a huge cost to the public purse - and could be at a catastrophic cost to the inshore environment.”

The Regulating Order proposal, put forward by the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, is currently being considered government directorate Marine Scotland; public comments on that proposal closed on January 18.