31st October 2012
A new voluntary code of conduct for prawn trawlers has been agreed amongst fishermen for the Inner Moray Firth so as to protect the viability of smaller vessels based in the area.
The Scottish prawn fleet has been experiencing a difficult year, particularly for larger vessels that normally fish further offshore, which have been hit by a lack of prawns on their traditional North Sea grounds and as a consequence the large displacement of vessels to the West Coast has ultimately led to a significant reduction in the number of available fishing days on the west coast. Vessels had little option but to return to the North Sea grounds.
Whilst these vessels have found themselves in a very difficult situation trying to maintain viability, smaller vessels prosecuting the traditional fishery in the Inner Moray Firth have also expressed concern in recent months over the need to seek some protection from any exaggerated influx of effort from the larger more nomadic fleets, whose traditional fishing grounds were delivering poor returns.
Recognising the importance of finding a solution, John Cox, the chair of the Moray Firth Inshore Fisheries Group invited James Reid, Prawn Committee Chair of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association and his counterpart from the Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association, Mark Robertson, to meet with prawn fishers centred on the port of Burghead.
That initial meeting saw general agreement that it was preferable for the industry to work together towards their own solutions rather than seek any new restrictive legislation, which could have unintended consequences for everyone concerned. With this in mind, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation readily agreed to facilitate and host whatever meetings were necessary for the fishermen to reach a mutually satisfactory solution.
This led to two further meetings where active fishermen from all three groups sat round a chart discussing traditional grounds and the likelihood of access by different types of vessel. The final meeting had the benefit of advice from a senior Marine Scotland Official, and arrived at an agreement to propose an area in the most westerly part of the Moray Firth be reserved for vessels under 300HP with a further small area reserved for vessels under 400HP (shown on the attached chart).
Each group went back to their own membership to ensure their agreement and this has now been achieved. John Cox paid tribute to the team who negotiated what he believes to have been a very practical way forward and “proves the efforts Scottish fishermen are taking to ensure the long term viability of the fishing industry”.
Malcolm Morrison of the SFF said: “The SFF was pleased to be able to help its member associations achieve this welcome development in conjunction with the Burghead fishers.”
The fishermen’s’ representatives who agreed the new code of conduct for prawn trawlers in the Inner Moray Firth, hope it will be adhered to by the three groups of fishermen involved, providing an excellent example of the fishing industry putting in place its own responsible voluntary control measures that protect both prawn stocks and fishermen’s livelihoods.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “We want all aspects of the Scottish fleet to have the opportunity to catch their quotas and make a viable living through sustainable fishing. Our Inshore Strategy is all about seeking local solutions with local fishermen at the heart of the process.
“Therefore I’m delighted that fishing interests in the Moray Firth have been able to cooperate and come to an agreement that will safeguard everyone’s interests. It’s a win-win when issues can be addressed without the need for regulatory intervention and we will do all we can to support this local agreement.”
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Catch PR Ltd
Tel: 01259 742575
Mobile: 07890 781151