Reports that Scottish west coast vessels have been fishing inside the controversial new west coast MPAs are without foundation, according to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, reports Tim Oliver

BBC Scotland reported that Marine Scotland had sent patrol boats to some of the MPAs after receiving reports that vessels had been seen inside the areas.

Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead told BBC Scotland: “Marine Scotland Compliance has received reports of alleged incursions into MPAs. They have deployed enforcement officers, marine protection vessels, and fast patrol craft to investigate these incidents and to deter and detect any illegal activity in MPAs.”

Richard Lochhead

Richard Lochhead

But the SFF, on hearing of the reports, said it had made its own enquiries with Marine Scotland and had been told the investigation into the reports was routine and there had been no prosecutions.

Chief executive Bertie Armstrong pointed out that the new MPAs only came into effect on 8 February and that there was always a small time delay between new legislation coming into force and all fishermen being aware of the new regulations. He had called senior officials in Marine Scotland and was told they didn’t know anything about the allegations.

“There is a standard response to any complaints,” he told Fishing News. “There’s a ‘whistle-blower’s’ line on their website and they are bound to investigate any complaints or reports of alleged illegal fishing. The fact is, there have been no prosecutions and there are none in the pipeline.

“The really regrettable aspect of this is that it’s dividing fishermen,” he said, adding that there was an element in the creel sector who wanted to see mobile gear banned from anywhere near where they fished.

“We should bear in mind that MPAs are there for the protection of features. We have our misgivings about the evidence base on which a small number of the decisions were made, and we are deeply unhappy, but that does not mean there is any form of campaign of civil disobedience.

“There are two separate issues here. One is respect for the law of the land and two is unhappiness about the MPAs, and there is no reason why one should create the other.”

Elaine Whyte of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association told BBC Scotland that as much as fishermen didn’t agree with MPAs they were respecting them. “They are not taking vigilante action and breaching the areas. They are tying up and taking losses, not fishing MPAs,” she said.


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