Action on fishing gear conflict
Communication the key to resolution.
A Scottish Government taskforce is being established to tackle deliberate acts of gear vandalism at sea and help resolve conflicts within the fishing industry.
Often the same sea area is shared between local and nomadic fishing operators as well as between trawlers and creelers in different parts of the country.
The Scottish Government is keen to help different kinds of fishing operations to co-exist harmoniously, recognising that in the vast majority of cases this happens and that competition between sectors is most often and best resolved locally without any need for formal intervention by public agencies.
However, occasionally issues may arise as a result of competition between operators. In addition to the taskforce, the Government will take the following steps to help reduce and resolve any potential tensions:
* Conduct a review of technology deployed to manage fisheries, and consider what changes can be made to improve management, and reduce the likelihood of any conflict occurring in the first place
* Undertake an assessment of inshore fisheries management arrangements and consider if these contribute to competition between different fishing gears and what measures can be taken to reduce risks of tensions arising
* Work with industry to explore options for establishing a gear interactions committee that encompasses the entire industry
Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“In the vast majority of cases fishers manage to share the marine environment in a harmonious manner and appreciate the importance of effective co-existence in their use of a precious resource. Fishing can be a highly competitive industry and the occasional point of tension between fishermen is not something new.
“There is no silver bullet and no easy solution when tensions spill over. Conflict is thankfully not the norm but needs to be addressed when it arises. My preference is for industry to work together and deal with it locally when it arises. Key to this is improving communications on all sides, and if necessary we will do what we can to help the industry in this process.
“There have been some good examples of industry joint working over the years. Local codes of conduct do work and are commonly used, most recently a voluntary agreement with fishermen working in the Burghead area. I also welcome the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s recent efforts to establish a Scallop Gear Conflict Resolution Committee.
“There is already a good foundation we can build on. However, where instances of conflict/vandalism happen, often caused by a rogue visiting vessel, I simply cannot accept deliberate actions by some fishermen that have a negative impact on others.”
Alistair Sinclair, Chair, Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation said:
“For too long now the issue of gear conflict and vandalism has blighted our industry and caused divisions between fishermen and their representatives. The Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation and Scottish Fishermen's Federation welcome Marine Scotland's latest initiative in setting up a task force to deal with this problem.
“Both organisations look forward to working closely with Marine Scotland and our colleagues in the industry to find ways to serve justice on this small minority who deliberately or continuously destroy other fishermen's gear and livelihoods.”
Bertie Armstrong of the SFF said:
“Both static and mobile fishing operations are entirely legal and worthy of encouragement and support. The solution to conflict between the gear types, where it exists, can therefore lie only in coordination and communication between fishermen themselves on the basis of mutual understanding.
“The SFF - with membership from both sectors - has been trying hard to facilitate this and will continue to do so working with the SCFF and with government. Accidental interaction will occasionally occur and can be sorted out to everyone's satisfaction; but what simply cannot and must not be tolerated is any action taken with the intention to impede operations or damage gear by individuals from either sector."
We need a much better understanding of gear conflict in Scottish inshore waters, establishing the scale, nature, and type of conflict that occurs. Independent consultants are currently undertaking a survey of gear conflict.
All fishing businesses are invited to participate, and responses will be anonymous (ensuring that no person or individual vessel will be identifiable).
Answers will enable Marine Scotland to build a more comprehensive picture of how often and where gear conflict is being experienced, the types of gear involved and the financial and other consequences for fishing businesses.
In addition to factual responses, the questionnaire provides ample opportunity to provide Marine Scotland with written comments on any aspect of gear conflict.