Illegal dredge fishing uncovered in Scottish protected area

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 7 February 2018

Two divers have discovered the aftermath of dredging on a recent dive near Insh island in the Firth of Lorn. The pair returned with camera equipment to film the damage along with environmental group Open Seas.

Scallop Dredging

In the twenty first century, it should be standard that we know who is fishing for what and where in our inshore waters.

Calum Duncan,
MCS Head of Conservation, Scotland

When similar damage was found last year to Loch Carron’s flameshell beds, it resulted in emergency closure of the waters there.

Divers Steve Barlow and Davy Stinson discovered the damage two years after special protection measures were introduced to safeguard rare marine life in the Firth of Lorn, including a ban on bottom-trawling fishing methods.

Nick Underdown, from the environmental group Open Seas, accompanied the divers to see the damage for himself. He told ‘The Scotsman’: “We are extremely concerned that illegally caught scallops, dredged from a marine protected area, could be pooled into wholesale, sold to legitimate retailers, before ending up on dinner plates.

“This would mean customers are inadvertently eating seafood that has been caught illegally and in an environmentally damaging way. This problem is only possible because there is poor traceability within Scotland’s inshore fishery.”

Diver Steve Barlow told the BBC: “I could see lines on the seabed which is classic of the dredges. This is where they dredge spikes along the sea bed.

“Then I was seeing boulders and broken scallop shells and scallops with meat still in them. So it was very recently that it happened.”

It’s 100% definitely damage caused by the sword from the scallop dredging. It’s a Marine Protected Area which had historically been very heavily dredged. When the protection came in, it started to recover and the environment was rebuilding itself.”

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation, Scotland, said it is bitterly disappointing if this damage is corroborated by Marine Scotland as having been caused by dredging activity.

“In the twenty first century, it should be standard that we know who is fishing for what and where in our inshore waters. We are not at that stage yet in Scotland for smaller vessels and, as a result, everyone loses - customers, retailers, the vast majority of responsible legal fishers and, most crucially, those fragile marine habitats that need protected both for their own merit and to support the long-term health of the fishing industry itself.

“We welcome the various trials on vessel monitoring being undertaken for smaller vessels, and also the constructive response from the industry to this incident, and all need to move forward together to secure a modern fishing industry as committed to in the Scottish Government’s Inshore Fishing Strategy published in 2015 to ensure these types of incident become a thing of the past.”

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Did you know?…

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

MCS established its Scotland office and programme in 2000 in Edinburgh