MOST North Sea trawlers have been banned from fishing in waters off Scotland’s west coast in an unprecedented move aimed at preventing a “prawn war”.
In a deal struck yesterday, Marine Scotland announced that the majority of the east coast fleet will, for the first time, be temporarily refused rights to fish in western waters.
The government agency’s move was welcomed by west coast fishermen, who had feared that the prawn fishing in their area would be over by the
end of September because of the number of other trawlers operating in the waters this summer.
Up to 50 additional vessels have travelled from North Sea fisheries where prawn stocks have been scarce, prompting complaints from in the west that stocks were being depleted.
Marine Scotland said it had implemented new measures, following consultation with industry, to ensure west coast
fishermen can catch their full prawn quota this year.
They mean that the remaining 2012 “fishing time” for the west coast has been allocated to all west coast-registered vessels.
However, any vessels with a record of more than 60 days’ fishing in the west during 2011, which may include some smaller east coast-registered boats, are excluded from the ban.
There will be a basic allocation of 16 days a month fishing time for west coast vessels, which will allow more than 90 per cent of boats to continue their normal time at sea.
Marine Scotland and the industry will consider the need for a managed closure of the west coast fishery over Christmas and into early January, when minimal fishing take place.
Western Isles Fishermen’s Association secretary Duncan MacInnes, said: “We are satisfied with the government’s compromise position.”
The west coast fishery covers an area from the north coast,, near Scrabster, down to the Scottish border opposite Northern Ireland.
Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead admitted that banning Scottish boats from
Scottish waters for the first time was “unprecedented” but necessary.
He said: “I recognise the deep concerns of the industry over this issue, therefore its important government takes action to ensure west coast fishermen have their time at sea to catch their full prawn quotas this year.”
However, Alan Coghill, president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said the decision was going to have an impact on east coast fishing families.
“A decline in the North Sea of prawn stocks means these fishermen have to look elsewhere to make a living,” he said.
“People are in business and have to pay their crews and make a living. They have to follow the fish.
“There are livelihoods of west coast and east coast fishermen at stake; this decision will impact on a lot of families.”