Highlands & Islands

Call for shake-up of Scottish west coast creel fisheries

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCreel fishermen believe 450 more boats and 700 new jobs can be created

Creel fishermen are calling for a massive change in the way west coast of Scotland fisheries are managed.

Their industry body has put a case to the Scottish government for trawlers to be banned from inshore waters.

They have also asked that the trawlers' allocation of prawns be transferred to their fleet.

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said the creel fishermen's report made a number of assumptions which would need "further investigation".

The Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation (SCFF) said the move would create hundreds of new jobs in rural communities.

But the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF), which represents the trawling sector, said the proposals would kill its fleet.

Creel fishing involves laying dozens of pots on the seabed and collecting the catch later.

The prawns are landed alive and are classified as a premium product.

Restrictions lifted

A 34-page document produced by the SCFF argues for the "three mile limit" to be reintroduced which prevents trawling in inshore waters.

The restriction existed for about a century and was only lifted to allow inshore trawling - now, mainly for prawns - in 1984.

The SCFF's research concludes that its reinstatement would lead to 450 additional creel boats and more than 700 new jobs.

Image caption There are fewer trawlers than creel boats using the fisheries but the trawlers' catches are larger

Chief executive Alistair Sinclair told BBC Scotland: "We are currently only afforded 15% of what's available out there.

"If we had the ability to fish more we could create so many jobs, it would be an unbelievable turnaround for the inshore fleet."

Tensions have long existed between trawlermen and creel fishermen who use entirely different techniques to fish for the same species in the same grounds.

Many skippers in the creel sector will claim that their gear has been lost or destroyed when trawlers have dragged their nets through them.

'It would be disastrous'

The Scottish government has announced that it will pilot ways of keeping the two fishermen apart by designating areas for their sole use.

Ali Macleod owns one of just three creel boats in Applecross.

He said: "I would actually say it's impossible to share [fishing grounds]. It's either trawler ground or creel ground.

"Sharing means if a trawler comes through on creel ground our gear's gone."

Although the creel fleet on the west coast is bigger than the inshore trawling fleet, the trawlers catch much more by volume.

But their haul can be worth significantly less per tonne, with much of it being used for scampi.

Donald Matheson is skipper of the trawler Eilidh, based at Kyleakin on Skye.

He said: "It would be disastrous. We are fortunate our boat is one of the bigger boats in the inshore trawling fleet.

"The rest of the boats would definitely be out of business and probably we wouldn't be far behind."

'Doing no damage'

The SCFF report argues that nearly £45m of additional revenue could be created by reintroducing the three-mile limit and that trawlermen could switch to creel boats.

But Bertie Armstrong from the SFF, which represents trawlermen, said: "First of all, this is an entirely sustainable industry that's doing no damage.

"They would find it terminal. With the sort of boats that are used for inshore trawling there is very little else you can do with them. You'd have to completely get rid of those boats, which now have no value, and reinvest.

"It makes no sense whatsoever, economically."

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said: "I will give this report from the SCFF full and proper consideration.

"The SCFF report makes a number of assumptions that will clearly require further investigation. That is why my recent announcement of inshore pilot schemes is timely and needed.

"These pilots will look at innovative approaches to fisheries management and test whether a more local approach to fisheries management and separating different methods of fishing, such as creeling and trawling, can yield greater benefits for coastal communities."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites