A report issued today, and backed by WDC, states that placing proportionate limits on some types of fishing could help boost long-term jobs in fragile Scottish rural communities, as well as protect the environment.
The Scottish government is due to announce measures for managing fishing in several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) later this month. The new report indicates that, if the government ends certain bottom-towed fishing methods (mechanical dredges and weighted demersal trawl nets) which damage protected fragile seabed habitats, there could be substantial knock-on benefits for local economies.
Over several decades the health of Scotland’s inshore seas has declined and yet, until now, there have been few attempts to manage and so allow these important inshore areas to recover.
Management proposals have been criticised in recent months, but environmental groups have carefully considered concerns expressed about the economic impacts of curtailing prawn-trawling and scallop dredging in MPAs. When considering hypothetical scenarios in which bottom-towed fishing is excluded from protected areas, the new report (commissioned by the Marine Conservation Society, MCS) concluded that rather than damaging the local economy, such measures could potentially provide substantial net benefits to coastal communities, for example by providing new opportunities for other forms of fishing and commercial marine activities.
The report authors argue that some previous analysis has not considered the major commercial significance of the “spillover effect”, where fish and shellfish stocks recover within protected areas and then move out beyond MPA boundaries, as well as allowing other activities to thrive in areas previously subjected to trawling or dredging.
Management developed specifically to protect and recover important seabed habitats would have knock-on benefits for all habitats and species below the waves, including Scotland’s largest filter-feeders, such as humpback whales, minke whales and basking sharks.