Marine Scotland has implemented new measures, following consultation with industry, to ensure West Coast fishermen can catch their full prawn quota this year.
Recent months have seen an unprecedented shift of vessels that normally fish for prawns in the North Sea, where prawns have been scarce this year, to the West.
While there is sufficient quota and overall prawn fishing is at a similar level to 2011 and 2010, the displacement means the annual ‘time at sea’ constraints will be breached without action being taken.
This latest management challenge starkly illustrates the need for an overhaul of the cod recovery plan – something that the Government and industry have been calling for some time.
The temporary measures announced are that:
- The remaining 2012 effort (fishing time) for the West Coast has been allocated to West Coast vessels only, which will also include boats with a record of more than 60 days fishing in the west during 2011.
- A basic allocation of 16 days fishing time for West Coast vessels, which will allow over 90 per cent of vessels to carry on their normal time at sea.
- Marine Scotland and industry will consider the need for a managed closure of the West Coast fishery over the festive period and into early January, when minimal fishing activities take place.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“I recognise the deep concerns of the industry over this issue, therefore its important Government takes action to ensure West Coast fishermen have their time at sea to catch their full prawn quotas this year. With the temporary measures we now have in place, I’m confident the usual fishing season can continue.
“I want to emphasis that this issue has been caused by two factors – firstly, the unusual scarcity of prawns in the North Sea that has lead to effort change; and secondly, this is not about quota availability but rather having the necessary days at sea to catch quota. This illustrates the management difficulties related to the EU’s flawed Cod Recovery Plan.
“My overall objective is to ensure West Coast fisherman can catch their quotas and are able to supply local processing businesses.
“I have been kept closely informed by Marine Scotland officials and have instructed them to undertake further close monitoring of the position as it develops and will keep the situation under review.”