For Cod’s sake Scottish Government – Protection must mean protection.
The Scottish Government’s biannual review of ‘protective measures’ for Clyde cod stocks have come under fire from campaigners as offering no protection from the activities most likely to harm their spawning grounds.
An area of the Firth of Clyde is temporarily closed every year so that theoretically cod may breed undisturbed; however, there are exemptions so that certain methods of fishing can continue uninterrupted, including bottom-trawling and scallop dredging, which are widely acknowledged to be the most environmentally damaging form of fishing in UK waters. Bottom-trawling and dredging rake across the seabed, and the area that is supposed to be closed contains essential fish habitat for spawning cod, yet the Scottish Government currently provides exemptions for bottom-towed fishing gear within the very area they are trying to protect a struggling cod population. Last year saw the lowest adult populations of west of Scotland cod ever recorded and scientists advise that no cod are caught from the west coast stock in 2022
The Our Seas coalition is urging people around the Clyde to stand up for the regeneration of fish populations in the Firth of Clyde and support more safeguards for cod spawning grounds.
Ailsa McLellan, Coordinator of the Our Seas coalition, an alliance of marine businesses, community groups, Scottish fishing associations, and environmental and recreational groups, said; “These measures are clearly not working, this is one of many examples of the Scottish Government talking a good game with respect to marine and fisheries management, whilst failing to do anything effective to improve the situation. The west of Scotland cod stock has collapsed, with no signs of the population recovering. How can anyone expect fish populations to recover without changing fisheries management? Catch limits are continually set above scientific advice and there is no monitoring or enforcement of the ban on discards. It is known that the Nephrops trawl fleet catches and discards a significant number of cod as bycatch, and both trawling and dredging impact the seabed as heavy gear is towed behind the boats, so it makes no sense for these fishing methods to be allowed in an area that is supposedly closed for the benefit of cod conservation.”
David Nairn of Clyde Porpoise, members of Our Seas coalition said: “Overfishing and failing to actually protect marine protected areas guarantees stock collapse – these stocks are in poor shape as a result of deliberate policy decisions currently supported and made by the Scottish Government. Both cod and their spawning habitats are ‘Priority’ Marine Features as designated by the Scottish Government. It’s time Ministers lived up to their obligations, and started addressing the horrific biodiversity loss we have witnessed over the past few decades.”
Jenny Crockett, outreach and communication manager for Arran Coast who are also members of Our Seas coalition said; “One of the greatest failings of this legislation is that trawling and dredging are permitted within the closed area, negating any benefit from ‘protecting’ spawning grounds. Fisheries management measures tend to focus on controlling the amount of fish caught and technical fishing gear measures that support this, although these measures are important, protecting habitats that are crucial to the life history of the target fish must be a more prominent part of the overall approach for fisheries management. Research is showing the crucial role of seabed habitat in supporting early life stages of fish such as cod, and that the biodiversity of the seabed affects the abundance and growth of juvenile demersal fish. It is therefore time for the Scottish Government to address fisheries protection in the Clyde with an ecosystem-based approach to protect essential habitats, such as cod spawning grounds.”
Our Seas coalition are calling for the urgent reinstatement of an inshore limit on the use of bottom towed fishing gear around Scotland’s coasts to halt and reverse the catastrophic damage done to habitats, carbon sinks, and fisheries by prawn trawling and scallop dredging.
The Scottish Government Consultation on Firth of Clyde spawning cod closures for 2022/2023 ends closes on the 4th Nov. Please follow this link to participate in this consultation >>>