The Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (Sift) believes trawling and shell-fish dredging are harming the country’s coastal ecosystem.
The trust is seeking tougher sanctions on trawlers and dredgers operating inshore – including a three-mile limit – claiming stocks of herring and cod in some areas, including the Clyde, had all but “collapsed”.
Responding to the Scottish Government’s proposals on Inshore Fisheries Groups (IFGs), the conservationists also believe recreational sea angling, traditional shellfish creeling and scallop diving are being impacted, as are wildlife tourism and recreational diving.
SIFT says its own research shows that IFGs, which have responsibility for managing inshore waters, are lagging far behind their equivalents south of the Border, both in terms of resources and remit.
But fishermens’ leaders – while agreeing IFGs were under-resourced – last night rejected claims of overfishing, claiming official statistics countered the accusation.
The coastline of mainland Scotland, together with its main islands, stretches to more than 11,500 miles, almost double that of mainland England and its main islands.
England’s network of ten Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) have a combined annual budget of over £8.6 million.
In comparison, SIFT says direct expenditure by Scotland’s IFGs is just £2 million per year and they have access to two planes, the occasional rigid-hulled inflatable boat in summer and three mini frigates, two of which are used mainly for offshore enforcement.
SIFT director Charles Millar said: “There is little doubt that the management and compliance monitoring of Scotland’s inshore waters is being starved of resources and falls far behind the situation in England.
“In essence Scotland is trying to manage inshore fisheries that cover almost twice the length of England’s coast with less than 25 per cent of the budget.
“The Scottish Government’s current review of the proposals of IFGs represents a great opportunity for Scotland to redress the balance and show its commitment to the sustainable management of our valuable coastal seas”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was inappropriate to compare resources in England with Scotland.
He added: “We are fully committed to ensuring that Inshore Fisheries Groups develop and become an integral part of local fisheries management in Scotland and have pledged £750,000 over three years to support IFGs.”