South Scotland

Luce Bay scallop closure impact assessed

Scallops
Image caption The minister is in Dumfries and Galloway to discuss moves to allow the scallop beds to reopen

The impact on fishermen of the closure of Scottish scallop beds is to be assessed in Dumfries and Galloway.

The embargo was put in place at Luce Bay to protect stocks after the Isle of Man banned some of Scotland's scallop fleet from Manx waters.

Scottish government officials are to visit the area to discuss the restrictions with boat operators.

Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead has defended the move but said all concerns would be taken onboard.

The Isle of Man government introduced a bye-law recently to protect local scallop stocks.

The move was criticised by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation as "extremely unfair" and doing nothing to address sustainability.

However, the Manx action prompted the Scottish government to make moves to protect stocks off its own coastline in case there was some "displacement" of vessels.

"There have been some environmental protection measures in place in Luce Bay for some time now," said Mr Lochhead.

"What we have decided to do is extend those closures that are in place for a few extra months because we are very afraid of displacement from Isle of Man waters, for instance, where some Scottish vessels have been excluded.

"We do recognise that this will bring some pain to those vessels excluded from their own fishery for an extra few months."

'Greater danger'

He said that was why he wanted to hold talks with local fishermen to see if any alternative measures could allow the beds to reopen more quickly.

Both Galloway and Upper Nithsdale MSP Alex Fergusson and his south of Scotland counterpart Alasdair Morgan have called for a rethink on the scallop bed closure.

Mr Fergusson said it could cause fishermen to put themselves in "greater danger" by heading to "more difficult fishing grounds".

That concern was echoed by Mr Morgan who said the Luce Bay beds were an "essential alternative" when weather was bad through the winter months.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said the closure was causing real harm to local fisherman and the wider economy of the region.

He urged all groups involved to get "round the table" to find a solution as quickly as possible.

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