Repair our inshore fisheries and allow Scotland to shine - Robert Younger

Some you may be familiar with the excellent BBC programme called The Repair Shop.

Viewers are invited to bring in precious but damaged family heirlooms for repair. The objects are consigned to the care of experts before being handed back to the delighted and tearful owner, restored to their former glory. When the Almighty was dispensing from the Celestial goodie bag, he gave Scotland a huge coastline with abundant inshore fisheries driven by rich marine biodiversity. A rich prize that has fed and nurtured our coastal communities and peoples over millennia.

Unfortunately, like a mechanical songbird that has lost its chirrup our inshore waters are a shadow of their former self.

The Repair Shop’s expert Steve Fletcher usually cannot wait to get the back off the damaged object to see what has gone wrong. If Steve were a marine biologist he would quickly identify the problem with our inshore fisheries. Since the removal of the inshore three mile limit in 1985 damaging trawled fishing gears have been free to fish the inshore.

Trawled fishing gears are dragged across the sea floor to catch their prey. Unfortunately in so doing they destroy the delicate sea floor flora and fauna, which provide the necessary conditions: the food, the shelter, which allow fish to survive and thrive.

The target of inshore trawlers is the Nephrops Norvigicus of which Scotland has the world’s largest stocks. This 24cm pale orange member of the lobster family goes by many names including Norway Lobster, Dublin Bay Prawn but in the culinary world is known as Langoustine. The value of the trawled catch is about £3000 per tonne and mainly serves the scampi market. Nephrops are also targeted by creel boats using fleets of baited pots. The creeled product is sold live into the international market as langoustine at a typical value of £12,000 per tonne. Per tonne of Nephrops caught, creeling generates more revenue, more profit more jobs and much less environmental damage than trawling.

Since the removal of the 3 mile inshore trawl ban in 1985 it has been the superior power and mobility of trawlers rather than their economic or environmental performance which has allowed them to dominate inshore waters and control 90% Nephrops stocks. Unfortunately, this has come at a great cost to Scotland. The environmental destruction of our inshore can be easily solved by restoring the ban on the use of trawled fishing gears in the inshore. Not only will this set the conditions for recovery but over time will also create jobs and profitability for coastal communities. It will also allow us to promote a premium food product as Scottish as whisky or haggis: the creeled Scottish langoustine.

Unfortunately, the last people that seem to have cottoned on to this good news story for Scotland is the Scottish Government. Our fisheries are too important an asset to be left in a state of disrepair.

Robert Younger, is a Solicitor for Fish Legal and Board Member of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation.