An open letter written by a commercial fisherman in Scotland has called for restrictions to curb more damaging forms of fishing in inshore waters.
Alistair Philp, National Coordinator of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, writes: “Now that the threat of the poorly thought-out Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA) proposals has passed, it is time to have a sensible debate about the alternative options.”
The letter issued on behalf of the Our Seas coalition, which includes a wide range of coastal organisations, describes a need to “reverse the decades of mismanagement that has already hollowed out much of our inshore fishing industry.”
It argues for the reinstatement of an inshore limit akin to or like the historic three-mile limit on trawling – designed to preserve fish nursery and spawning grounds – such as was in place until 1984.
The original three-mile-limit, which was in place for a century, allowed for low-impact creel fishing, but banned industrial trawlers.
The letter also notes that government studies have shown “that a reinstated inshore limit on trawling would yield more economic benefit for rural Scotland”.
It distinguishes between damaging fishing and small-scale sustainable fishing, and notes that the public recognise the difference.
“One of the most telling responses to the HPMA consultation,” writes Mr Philp, “was the public concern that all fishing would be banned. Many people recognised the big difference between small-scale, low impact creel and dive fishing boats, and those larger more industrial vessels which trawled the seabed and likely need to be regulated in some areas. Why ban them all?”
The inshore limit was scrapped in 1984, says the letter, following the “mismanagement and consequent collapse of both the herring and inshore whitefish fisheries” when new fish stocks were sought for exploitation.
Mr Philp advocates for a 12-mile inshore limit much bigger than the original Scottish three-mile limit and “similar to that in Norway”.
“Norway has,” he said, “what is widely recognised to be one of the most successful inshore fishing industries, from both an environmental and economic point of view, on mainland Europe. Our coastal communities would truly thrive if the Scottish government learned from the success of the Norway model.”