Introduction – Inshore Fisheries

Geographically and politically for the purposes of management, the area defined as inshore extends to 6nm from land, but fixed definitions of what the inshore is are not helpful. The 6nm does not contain the limits of the inshore fishery, nor does it limit the access of the offshore fishery to the inshore.

The conundrum of defining any fishery by terrestrial means is that fish in all their manifestations and biological states do not respect boundaries and their environment is wholly three dimensional and biologically and inter-species dynamic.

Species may spawn out with the boundary of the inshore and move inshore and vice versa. There is biological and physical interconnection between the inshore and the offshore fisheries. The inshore comprises all species which live within the waters that can be accessed by all vessels. These species may or may not be legally harvestable depending on which part of the management regime is applicable to their vessels.

The typical and enduring Scottish business model of the inshore fisherman is of a self-employed individual or individuals, using family members or locally sourced labour for crew. Wives and other relatives may support the business by running accounts and facilitating onshore links with buyers. There is a high degree of economic autonomy within the SMEs of the inshore fishing industry. Profits are largely retained within the local communities.

Typically, inshore fishermen operate from ports in which they either live or live near to. They can work as a single-handed day boat or a vessel large enough to stay out at sea for several days with several crew and include onshore support crew undertaking land–based duties like mending. Inshore fishing boats may also operate periods of nomadic fishing moving for seasonal periods to base themselves in other ports.

They are not defined by gear type nor species and span static gear, mobile gear, hand gathering, trawl and dredging. Size and draught of vessel may limit physical access to inshore activity and vice versa. Fishermen have moved back and forth between the offshore and the inshore industries so know the pros and cons of the different fisheries. The inshore provides a good training ground for fishermen to gain experience before moving into the offshore fishery.

Historical background

Historically, inshore fishermen would have fished seasonally and opportunistically for all species and worked combinations of static (creels, lines & nets) and mobile (nets & dredges) accordingly.

The introduction of the Common Fisheries Policy, has had a profound effect on fisheries and fisheries management in the UK. However, fisheries out with the scope of the CFP have been the competence of the UK and Scottish Governments. A system of track-record and licensing was used to define fleets and fisheries and over the years for various reasons the inshore became a fishery dependent on; crab, lobster, langoustine, squid, dog-whelks, king scallops and queen scallops which were out-with most management controls except mesh sizes or minimum landing sizes.

Licence entitlements were issued via Marine Scotland for shellfish, scallop (dredge) and latterly line mackerel. As part of the CFP quota allocations for finfish, an amount of fish retained by Marine Scotland and not allocated to POs, was available to be issued weekly to vessels not in a PO (termed non-sector) or under 10m in length, (under 10m Pool).

Inshore fishermen initially retained via their licenses the opportunity to pursue several species, and many saw this as an essential flexibility to their operations. However, declining stocks, licensing adjustments and fisheries management changes have lead to the removal of this flexibility. The decline in finfish species coupled with the increase in value of shellfish species meant that this became a viable alternative to multi species fishing without the dependence of fish quotas.

Numerous laws emanating from different pressure perspectives impact upon the inshore in particular. For the full list of laws and regulations impacting on the inshore fishery see Annex¹

Current Issues

Species/Gear. In species and gear terms the inshore has become almost species-specific. This has resulted in maximising gear and effort to target the species most prevalent within any geographic area. The prevalence of the most popular gear and species may itself be a by-product of artificial external factors relating to regulations in the offshore fishery.

In some areas this has resulted in conflict over access to the fishery between operators of different gears and large amounts of gear occupying the sea bed for longer periods of time.

Conflict can occur within and among the inshore participants and between the offshore and inshore vessels.

It is universally acknowledged that in most areas the Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) has declined, i.e. the amount of gear (effort) needed to harvest the same amount of catch has exponentially increased, again giving rise to conflict.

Previous consultations on gear limitation have not found universal favour, however individual fisheries are beginning to acknowledge a need for at least a cap on effort, and the Inshore Fishery Groups (IFGs) need to be given resources and encouraged in all areas, to adapt management measures that suit.

Access to Fish. The reality of access to the fish allocated to the non-sector does not favour the seasonal weather and size restrictions of inshore vessels and has amounted to a ‘paper’ access to fish which was therefore largely unused, compounding the reduction of access to finfish when boats were physically unable to build up track record to retain stocks within the system. There is a 2 way reciprocity of swaps between POs and the Scottish Government managed ‘ non sector’

The recent allocation of 1000 tonnes of Mackerel quota on a ‘fish or return’ basis to the under 10m fleet has struggled with low uptake in areas where small vessels were not already geared up for that fishery. The vagaries of stocks’ geographic distribution also make uptake challenging in a sector where there is little finance available for new investment and where the supply chain and markets remain unformed. The ‘fish or return’ idea does seem worthy of continual assessment and development

Spatial Management. Spatially, the inshore out to both 6nm and 12nm is becoming increasingly crowded, with fishermen in competition with Aquaculture, Renewables, Cable companies, MOD, recreational activities and nature designations such as MPA, SAC and SPA. Many of these designations derive from EU directives and further compound limits on inshore fisheries through management controls implemented for the protection of birds and endangered species. The Scottish Marine plan has many clauses which recognise the importance of fishing – (General Planning Policies 1, 2, 3, 4, 17, 18, 19 and the whole of Chapter 6 refer) however the problem is the actual implementation and enforcement of these by Marine Scotland. It can be seen that fishing has no special status within these competing pressures, which could be addressed by considering it as a primary food producing activity.

There is a growing move for exclusive use of the seabed, an increase in pressure from well-funded and articulate environmental groups for Nature designations and No Take Zones, further diminishing spatial access. Marine Planning Partnerships (MPP) may seek powers of sea closure and third party management through non industry driven Regulating Orders. These uncertainties are creating additional campaigning burdens to the inshore fleet in resisting such

things as non-expert opinions on stocks. The prospect of “coastal state” control of the stocks post-Brexit raises the possibility that current fishing pressure could be moved offshore due to new fishing opportunities in that area thereby reliving pressure inshore that could benefit the indigenous fleet.

IFG System. The well intentioned IFG process has had mixed success ranging from very efficient to the not so successful. The IFG model works best where there is a defined geographical area and identity with well-developed democratic links to local management of resources. The three island IFGs have long term local political structures in place and unitary local authorities, and the Shetland Shellfish Management Order is a good example of this.

However local fishing industry management efforts within these island areas are simultaneously undermined by removal of planning authority (to island authorities or SG for the granting of planning applications in aquaculture) and the management objectives of MPAs and SPAs.

At a national level NGOs have increasing influence on the shaping of environmental designations. Lack of resource, volunteer fatigue, geographical extremes and communication difficulties all inhibit sound pro-active IFG development around the mainland coastal fisheries.

Furthermore, departure from a bottom up approach and artificial political efforts to instigate IFGs have caused disharmony and accusations of unfair preferential treatment towards some sectors. It is yet to be seen how the new arrangements will work.

Science. Data on the shellfish stocks which the inshore fleet relies on is generally poor, as is data on the relationship between inshore and offshore stocks. In many ways this is a result of years of government focussing on the larger scale fleets to the detriment of the inshore sector, where management was non-existent and science was not seen as important enough to have money spent on it.

The need for science is now being revisited, as much for the effects of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as for the benefit of the fishing industry. There is much that could be done on studying the spawning & nursery grounds and predator/ prey relationships which would benefit the whole fleet.

It is enormously important for industry to retain ownership of all the scientific data which they provide, and participate in the use of that data to inform the management of their fisheries.

Science also has a part to play biologically, as the marine food chain is susceptible to negative biological human inputs including localised farm chemicals and nutrients running off the land into the sea, anti-parasitic and chema-theraputants used in aquaculture and invasive species carried on the hulls or within the ballast water of vessels.

Finance. Access to commercial investment in the inshore through banks is non-existent and impacts on new entrants’ ability to enter the industry. As commercial banking sees inshore fishing as ‘red light’ in terms of investment, crews may also be shut off from domestic mortgages as they cannot show earnings in the same way as salaried employees can.

Share fishermen have little access to state benefits such as unemployment and sickness benefits and thus can be heavily impacted financially by the consequences of ill health or prolonged periods of inaccessibility to fishing grounds. All these factors demonstrate just how financially precarious a career at sea can be.

The importance of European funding was crucial to the inshore industry in terms of infrastructure, piers & harbours, training, safety, science etc. particularly in the remote and fragile coastal areas. Leaving the EU should see a Government funded replacement fund, which had previously been impossible to design because EU state aid rules inhibited the amount of money that Governments could invest. The new fund should be carefully designed to optimise the benefits, in the first case targeted on the fleet, to ensure it is better equipped to do a professional job of fishing, prioritising this over non-productive projects onshore.

There has always been scope for upgrades to vessels in terms of Health & Safety and facilities on-board, although there were barriers, firstly the boat must be over 5 years old, and secondly there is allowance for increasing the size of a vessel for H&S reasons. Further this computation of volume, relating to UK licensing of vessels, would mean a vessel having to buy additional capacity which is a financial disincentive to improving space considerations for crew.

Failure to modernise the inshore fleet impacts on the attractiveness of work on board a boat as a modern path of employment and career. Crew expectations in the modern world require to keep pace more realistically with modern onshore employment environments.

What would benefit the inshore fishery?

Recognition A recognition that the inshore fishery is a version of the offshore industry, structured on a different economic and social scale primarily providing economic stability to coastal communities and retaining localised employment and investment within local communities. Definitions of what a coastal stakeholder is could be better defined and community and weighting of lobbying and influence should be fairer and more practically representative. Those who make a living directly from the inshore fisheries, such as fishermen, processors, other ancillary trades who make up the communities which are socio-economically dependent on inshore fishing deserve more proportionate recognition.

It is understood and indeed regarded as positive that the awareness of marine issues has been heightened across the general public in recent years. However general awareness varies from in-depth understanding and first-hand knowledge. Those who have traditionally demonstrated guardianship and close links to sustainable fisheries, the environment and their communities should be treated as important shareholders due to their unique understanding of inshore fisheries issues.

It could reasonably be claimed that the views of inshore fishermen, businesses and communities should be considered with more weight than those of opinion holders from outside interests. This is especially true when fisheries, the environment and communities could be inadvertently impacted negatively as a result of well-intentioned opinions developed with little primary knowledge of the key issues.

Realistic socio-economic assessments on the real contribution of inshore fishing to communities in light of the onshore value in jobs (e.g. 4/5 jobs onshore to 1 job at sea) and including the landing values and multiplier effect of those. This would provide a sounder picture of the actual macro and micro contribution of inshore fishing. This knowledge would be key to developing all aspects of an industry that is professionalised in terms of training, income, working conditions and access to the resource thus maintaining local recruitment to the inshore fleet and a supply of fishermen and future skippers to that sector but also as the option of a career path to progress into the whitefish industry.

Access to Fish Recognition that the inshore industry is an existing primary food provider supplying quality protein at a low economic and environmental cost. New possibilities in thinking on access to mixed species and mixed gears from the perspective of better economic stability, less pressure on single-species in areas where that is the case, better seasonal and sustainable smart fishing and bait allowances which could mean a new type of approach to fishing entirely whereby optimising gear specific to the area and targeting of species in accordance with their optimal biological condition. There could be scope for area and species appropriate new types of management highlighting sustainability

Science Integral to that is the need for comprehensive stock assessments to inform effort management with fishermen at the heart of designing workable and meaningful scientific studies. Management would be helped by simplification of and streamlining of rules, regulations and the number of intervening bodies that have influence over the fishery. This would allow fishermen a clearer picture of what is and is not feasible in their areas. Expectations also should be realistic and based on evidence and underpinned by sustainable fishing goals.

Science which considers coastal interactions including impacts of land run off on wild stocks, chemicals of fish farms, seal predation, mink predation on bird eggs (this being an important factor for SPAs), whether fishermen support or endanger birds by feeding them and are these fishing benefits recorded/recognised in designations such as SPA.

Stability in the sector needs to be developed by setting planning cycles at sensible economic time intervals i.e. 3 or 5 year policy planning intervals which longer term stability could give banks confidence to invest in the sector.

Funding Replacement of the EU structural funds is essential to enable the inshore industry and its infrastructure to catch-up on historical under- investment. An investment programme to update the existing fleet firstly to ensure safety within Scottish waters, and to ensure on board working and living conditions meet 21st century standards. A model such as that used in Norway where Innovation Norway includes the role of a national development bank, focussing on ensuring investment benefits the national economy.

This would entail improvements that go beyond the core health and safety provision and actually make vessels more comfortable in terms of onshore employment environment expectations where crew would have better connectivity with family ashore through good internet connections and have vessels designed to provide better facilities for personal comfort. A strategically designed new build programme to replace old vessels should be undertaken, and a cohesive infrastructure programme to help better access to markets from remote areas.

Marketing The catching sector sees the potential of Seafood Scotland to differentiate our products and maximise the return to the fleet across the board. Seafood Scotland working with others across the food spectrum to produce projects such as Connect Local should ensure that there is more scope for locally caught seafood to be consumed and processed locally, adding value within inshore communities. This work can only be improved by realistic funding of the body in order to ensure continuity of effort in this field of work.

Together with a renewed infrastructure including better means of keeping catches fresh, minimising handling and stress of live species, the use of remote technology to sell to markets, ensuring prices are agreed at sale point and not after the product has left, should all work to benefit the fishermen’s business and create a coherent industry for the future.




Enacting body


Act of Union

employment, provision of seafarers and trade

Scottish National Monarch


Crown Estate Act

establishment of board to run Crown Estate

UK Parliament


National Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967


UK Parliament


Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Act 1984


UK Parliament


Shetland Shellfish Management Order

Local fisheries Management



European Union Water Framework Directive

Water quality

EU Parliament


The Inshore Fishing( Prohibition and Fishing Methods) (Scotland) Order 2004


Scottish Parliament


European Union Shellfish Waters Directive

Habitat Protection

EU Parliament


European Union Food Hygiene Regulations 2006

Human health protection

EU Parliament


Marine Scotland Act

Sea Planning

UK Parliament


Orkney Islands Council Supplementary Guidance on siting of Aquaculture

Siting of Salmon Fish Farms in Orkney

Orkney Islands Council


Marine Scotland Inshore Policy Strategy

Management and compliance

Scottish Parliament


Scotland National Marine Plan


UK Parliament


Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Regional Marine Plan

Pilot document compiled by Highland and OIC

Non- statutory Pilot


Clyde 2020


Shetland MSP


Annex 1

1705 Act -Scotland National – reference to fishing in 1705 Act – allows a right to fish to provide employment and create trade.

1961 Crown Estate Act -the estate is managed by a Board who have a duty to maintain and enhance the value of the estate and the return obtained from it, but with due regard to the requirements of good management and includes ownership of the UK seabed out to 12nm – permissions for lease of aquaculture sites, renewables sites

1967 National Seafisheries (Shellfish) Act

1984 Inshore Fishing Scotland Act- devolution of regulation to Scottish govt out to 12nm on conservation grounds including prohibition of fishing, gear types, vessel types, seasonal effort.

1999 SSMO –control of local shellfish fishery in Shetland through Regulating Order

2000 EUWFD -to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies (including marine waters up to one nautical mile from shore) by 2015 farm run offs- tbt on tankers

2004 Inshore Fishing (Prohibition and Fishing Methods) –prohibitions of certain gears, mesh and minimum landing size.

2006 –EU Shellfish Waters Directive--protection of aquatic habitat of bivalve molluscs (oysters, mussels, cockles, scallops, clams) in order to support shellfish life and growth including water classifications.

2006 EU Food Hygiene Regulations -sale of live bivalve molluscs testing for toxins

2010 Marine Scotland Act -powers to introduce statutory marine planning for Scotland’s seas – new legislative and management framework to manage competing demands. New marine licensing process to cover all anticipated marine activities with exception of aquaculture within 3 nm in island authorities and devolved administration

2012 Orkney Islands Council Supplementary Guidance on siting of Fish Farms –Guidance on siting of Fish Farms – statutory powers granted to OIC from Scottish Government. Fishing industry not statutory consultee. No third part appeal against decisions.

2015 Marine Scotland Inshore Strategy Policy-development of a more sustainable, profitable and well managed fishery – modernisation of management – compliance.

2015 Scottish National Marine Plan-This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and devolved functions.

2015 PFOW MSP-Adopted by Orkney Islands Council to inform Marine Planning.

2016 –Clyde 2020 MPP –powers of sea closure

2016 Shetland MSP