Fury over il­le­gal scal­lop dredg­ing

Crack­down calls

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - FRONT PAGE - BY RITA CAMP­BELL

Calls are be­ing made for stricter reg­u­la­tion of the scal­lop dredg­ing in­dus­try af­ter footage was cap­tured of a pro­tected seabed near Oban which has been il­le­gally dredged.

Video ev­i­dence of a “sus­pi­cious” ves­sel op­er­at­ing in the Firth of Lorn Spe­cial Area of Con­ser­va­tion (SAC) was shown at a meet­ing of con­cerned par­ties in­clud­ing divers, creel fish­er­men and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists on Wed­nes­day night.

The sus­pected dredger was seen mov­ing back and forth over the same area near the Garvel­lachs un­in­hab­ited is­lands, with nav­i­ga­tional lights switched off.

Tour boat op­er­a­tor David Ains­ley went out to in­ves­ti­gate.

He said: “There was a stack of full bags at the back of the boat – pre­sum­ably the catch and dredges hang­ing over the sides of the boat.”

In the days that fol­lowed late last month, Mr Ains­ley and Steph Cooper, a lo­cal scal­lop diver, in­spected the area of seabed.

Mr Ains­ley said: “We dived and filmed a rocky reef at 114ft which I have dived in the past. The fau­nal turf on the reef was now heav­ily silted.

“We swam south-east and came to dredged ground – the marks of the dredges are clearly vis­i­ble, with gouges in the seabed in lines like a mown lawn. Very lit­tle was left alive.”

Nick Un­der­down of Open Seas con­ser­va­tion char­ity said: “This is not an iso­lated prob­lem. It is symp­to­matic of a poorly reg­u­lated in­dus­try.

“Only 5% of Scot­land’s coastal wa­ters are pro­tected from scal­lop dredg­ing.

He added: “It has been a slowly un­fold­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter for Scot­land’s coastal wa­ters.

“The scal­lop dredge in­dus­try is fish­ing harder for less and has de­stroyed fish nurs­ery and spawn­ing grounds.

“Wide­spread scal­lop dredg­ing con­tin­ues to un­der­mine the re­cov­ery of our coastal en­vi­ron­ment.

“Ev­ery­one agrees we need less dredg­ing.

“Open Seas are call­ing for a sus­tain­able six, where only fish­eries that can prove they are sus­tain­able are per­mit­ted within six miles of our shore­line.”

How­ever, John Ma­cAl­is­ter, a fish­ing ves­sel owner based in Oban, who was not in­vited to the meet­ing, said: “Open Seas know full well that nor­mal pro­fes­sional fish­er­men are not op­er­at­ing il­le­gally. We are fish­ing pro­fes­sion­ally and sus­tain­ably.

“Divers are break­ing the law by land­ing un­der­sized scal­lops. Com­mer­cial fish­er­men are not.

“I have cam­eras on board my boats tuned to Marine Scot­land.

“Small scal­lop­ers are get­ting away without put­ting cam­eras on.”

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “Cases of sus­pected il­le­gal dredg­ing in the Firth or Lorne have been re­ported to Marine Scot­land and com­pli­ance of­fi­cers are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of a num­ber of sus­pect ves­sels.”

“It has been a slowly un­fold­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter”

EF­FECTS: An im­age of the sea bed in Oban which al­legedly show signs of il­le­gal dredg­ing for scal­lops, which has been likened to a “dis­as­ter”

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