The Scottish Parliament is due to debate a Ministerial statement of the Future of Scotland’s Fisheries, As the end of the Brexit transition period looms and a no-deal still looks like a possible scenario, this is would be a rare opportunity for our MSPs to debate at any real length the future direction of Scotland’s fisheries management.
Scotland’s fisheries are a public resource and for decades now have been mismanaged – both environmentally and economically. Here are some numbers that might help put this important political debate in context and explain why fundamental reform of our fisheries management is urgent and in the public interest…
(Get in touch if you’d like us to add any to the list)
4170 – the number of tonnes of cod caught on the west coast in 1970
50 years ago, Scotland’s fleet was routinely catching over four thousands tonnes of cod on the west coast every year. Now fish populations are so low that scientists advise a zero catch policy for cod on the west coast. We need to take measures to actively rebuild fish populations, not continue to overfish them and suppress their recovery. See our ‘Blue Recovery’ blog for more information.
18 – the number of mega tonnes of carbon that are stored in the top 10cm of Scotland’s seas
This is about 18 times the amount stored in the equivalent top 10cm on land. Scotland’s marine carbon stores are vast. According to the latest Climate Change Plan – Securing a Green Recovery on a Path to Net Zero – “research indicates that our marine sediments may contain eleven times the amount of carbon stored in Scotland’s peatlands given the vast marine area we’re responsible for.” Scotland’s annual national emissions are about 51.2 mega tonnes each year. Bottom-towed fisheries – such as scallop dredging and bottom-trawling – are potentially risking continued damage to this important carbon store.
1 – the number of times that ‘climate change’ is mentioned in a 63 page document outlining the future of Scotland’s fisheries management
With Scottish Government acknowledging a climate emergency, and the importance of ‘blue carbon,’ why does Marine Scotland appear to ignore the role that sea fisheries can play in tackling the climate crisis. We set out this issue in our blog and have written to the Just Transition Commission highlighting the urgent need to integrate climate action across all sectors, not just on land, but at sea too.
4.52 – the percentage of Scotland’s seas safeguarded from scallop dredging and bottom-trawling
Until 1984, our whole coastal zone was protected by a ‘Three Mile Limit‘ – this meant that approximately 35% of our inshore seas were protected from bottom-trawling. The Scottish Government currently claim that 37% of Scotland’s seas are ‘protected’ but in fact only a small fraction of our coastal seas are safeguarded from bottom-towed fisheries. We support the ‘Our Seas’ coalition’s campaign to reinstate an inshore limit to ‘bring back the fish’. Check out the ‘#InshoreLimit’ petition.
24 – the number of kilos fish caught and discarded for every 100 kilos of prawns landed by the trawl fleet in the Clyde in 2007.
We are aware of some industry efforts to map bycatch hotspots and trial more selective fishing gear to reduce discards, but these initiatives do not cover the whole fleet. Meanwhile discarding of fish at sea continues due to the ongoing problem of illegal discarding. See our report: Evidence of Continued Illegal and Unreported Discarding in West Scotland Nephrops (Scampi) Fishery.
78 – the number of hectares of flameshell beds lost in just the past 10 years in Argyll
According to a leaked report, the Scottish Government’s nature conservation advisory body NatureScot has identified significant declines in marine habitats across many of Scotland’s marine regions. This includes over half of all flameshell reefs – a habitat that provides vital nursery grounds for fish populations.
A leaked government report shows the Clyde’s lost 9.1 hectares of flame shell reef in just 10 years. Argyll has lost 53 hectares during the same period. This newly discovered flame shell reef is a ray of hope amidst a backdrop of decline. https://t.co/fr2urp91y2 pic.twitter.com/znhOdR6Ty0
— Open Seas (@TheOpenSeas) December 11, 2020
5 – the number of family businesses that control 33% of Scottish fishing quota
This statistic – the result of a Greenpeace/Unearthed investigation in 2019 – highlights the huge consolidation that has taken place in recent decades. Fergus Ewing’s strategy for retaining the Fixed Quota Allocation system whilst handing out some ‘additional quota’ to others (new entrants, community fisheries) that may, or may not, arrive as a result of Brexit looks set to put Scotland on a pathway to continued consolidation within the industry.
81.63 – the percentage of industry representatives who agree there is a need for urgent reform of scallop dredging in the inshore
Just two years ago a UK-wide scallop conference was held and clearly agreed that reform to inshore management of scallop dredging was urgent and necessary. Brexit is putting further pressure on a scallop dredge fleet that is already recognised to be over-capacity. And yet very little progress has been made to reform its management and safeguard against its environmental impacts. Scallop dredging remains legal across 95% of Scotland’s coastal waters, with just a few protected areas limiting its footprint – even these areas are poorly enforced.
If you think that these numbers don’t stack up, then share them with your friends, networks and elected representatives.
Scotland’s fisheries are a public resource.
It’s time we started to manage them for public benefit.