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Fishers’ relief at rule change

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Fishers' relief at rule change

FISHERMEN in Galloway have expressed relief at a Scottish Government u-turn over a ban on lobster and crab landings.

Scottish Ministers confirmed a letter of derogation had been granted to fishing vessels participating in the Solway Scientific Trial.

Members of the Galloway Static Gear Fishermen’s Association say it’s a relief for those who fish mainly for lobsters, brown crab and whelks in the Solway Firth and North Channel.

Chair Frazer Scott, from Garlieston, said: “This would have finished many of our members off as they would have really struggled to make a living.

“I have been fishing these waters for nearly 35 years and I thought it was the end for me. There is absolutely no way I could have carried on.”

Shaun McGuire whose family have been working the Solway for five generations, added: “I thought my time was up.”

The pair have praised Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson for his intervention on the issue, saying: “We cannot thank Finlay enough for taking up our fight and putting our case to those responsible for making this decision.

“Finlay spoke with us at length and then swung into action, which we will all be eternally grateful for.”

Under the new landing controls, stricter controls are applied to restrict creel fishing activity within six nautical miles of Scotland’s coastline.

Vessels over 12 metres in length and with recorded catches over 200 tonnes of crab and lobster in any 12 month period since 2020 must work outside this distance to protect berried (egg bearing) lobster.

However, creel fishers operating locally, where stocks of berried lobster are considerable, have agreed to return all of them to the water as part of a scientific trial.

Mr Scott explained: “We have always maintained that sustainable fishing must be adhered to and we believe berried lobsters must be returned to ensure future stocks remain high.

“It is not about greed but protecting livelihoods for the next generation of fishers and the one after that.”

MSP Mr Carson wrote to Mairi Gougeon, Rural Affairs and Land Reform Secretary, asking what impact assessments had been carried out into the effect on individual fishers. He also enquired about the powers under which these interim measures will be introduced, enforced and penalties for failure to comply.

Replying, the Secretary said: “The claims made by your constituents are striking, suggesting the percentage of egg-bearing females amongst their catches are more than double any other area we have sampled.

“Although our current sampling data does not cover the Solway, the UK Fisheries Act does require us to take a precautionary approach in how we allow exploitation of these resources.”

Ms Gougeon confirmed she had instructed officials and scientific advisors to prioritise sampling operation for the Solway immediately.

 

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