Western Isles prawn fishing under pressure from larger boats from east coast – Fishupdate.com

Western Isles prawn fishing under pressure from larger boats from east coast Published:  25 June, 2012

Western Isles prawn fishing under pressure from larger boats from east coast.

Prawn fishing in the Minch could be closed by the end of the summer because of an influx of large fishing boats from the East of Scotland ‘plundering’ the fishing grounds, according to the Stornoway Gazette.

This would leave much of the local fishing fleet tied up for the last four months of the year and see production cease at the islands’ shellfish processing plants.

Local fishermen are concerned that the uncontrolled increase in prawn trawl effort on the West coast will leave them without sufficient time allowed at sea to see them through to the end of the year.

There is a limited amount of prawn fishing permitted in the Minch measured by what is called kilowatt days at sea (power of the vessel’s engine – as a proxy for catching capacity –  multiplied by the number of days at sea).

This means that the quota will be used up much more quickly with bigger, faster vessels operating 24 hours a day and could mean the quota is met as soon as September.

Western Isles Fishermen’s Association have written an urgent letter to their local MP and MSP urging them to use their influence to instigate management measures to prevent early closure.

The association is also concerned about changes to the rules regarding the use of highly selective gear which could see even more East coast vessels coming West.

Local fishermen are also worried about the effect of the over-fishing on the environment and many are calling for horsepower limits on boats fishing the area.

They believe the large tonnage freezer vessels are disturbing large boulders from the seabed causing more hazards for smaller vessels and damaging the prawns spawning grounds.

The situation has also drawn attention to the fact that many of the large East coast boats are crewed by non-EU fishermen on transit visas. Many non-EU nationals used to work on the West coast vessels but were sent home because they did not fit the criteria for this area. Those who remain are paying taxes to the UK Government.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government told the Stornoway Gazette said: “The Scottish Government is aware of industry concerns about unusually intense fishing in waters to the West of Scotland at the moment, and possible knock on effects over days at sea allocations.

“A lack of prawns in North Sea fishing grounds has caused some displacement of fishing activities into the west.

“Marine Scotland is continuing to monitor this situation carefully and assess whether the impact is a short-term problem or likely to continue over the course of the year.

“The issue was discussed at the meeting of the Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC) last week and Marine Scotland has agreed to take forward discussions with industry experts on any likely action to mitigate the situation.”