Fishermen join call for ban on fishing to protect coral
ENVIRONMENTALISTS and fishermen have joined forces to call for a fishing ban to protect fragile corals.
The cold deep-water corals on Rockall Bank, 230 miles west of North Uist, support hundreds of species, including sea urchins, sponges, crabs and many young fish. They are also thought to be vital nursery grounds for commercial fish, such as haddock.
WWF and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) say all types of fishing gear are potentially damaging to the coral, with bottom-trawling gear - used for catching species such as blue ling and black scabbard fish - seen as the biggest threat.
Both organisations are now urging the EC to close the area to all fishing.
Helen McLachlan, the senior marine policy officer with WWF Scotland, said: "The deep-water corals around Scotland's coast are as rare, beautiful and fragile as any found in tropical climes and support an astonishing diversity of marine life.
"However, they are virtually unprotected, with large areas being subjected to irreversible damage from fishing gear, particularly bottom trawling. We are calling for the EU to close to all fishing an area of Rockall Bank to protect the ancient cold- water corals there and the hundreds of species that depend upon them - before it is, frankly, too late."
Ian Gatt, an SFF spokesman, said protecting the Rockall Bank corals is good for the haddock stocks, as they are essential feeding grounds for the young fish.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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