Newsletter No23 October 2020
Friends of the Sound of Jura is one of more than sixty organisations that have joined the Our Seas Coalition.
Our Seas believes that Scotland’s coastal waters are among the country’s most precious assets, and worth protecting. Our waters are extremely productive, rich in biodiversity and they can support many jobs in coastal communities if they are managed sustainably.
Some fishing methods damage life on the seabed, destroying nurseries for commercial fish, such as maerl beds, and harming rare seabed animals. The Scottish Government has identified 11 of these Priority Marine Features (PMF) species and habitats that are most at risk from bottom-contacting fishing (scallop dredging and prawn trawling).
In 2017, a scallop dredger devastated a bed of rare flameshells in Loch Carron.
Despite this being one of the best examples of this PMF, the flameshell bed was not legally protected. After a public outcry, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Environment set up an emergency Marine Protected Area, within which it is hoped that the flameshells will gradually recover. She also promised to review the protection given to PMFs from scallop dredging and prawn trawling. This review was launched in 2018 but nothing has come of it so far and the Government’s ambition to protect these PMFs seems to have dwindled almost to nothing. The only tangible action is that trials have started of tracking devices on the smaller scallop dredgers, which would show where the boats are, without being admissible as evidence in court, if the boats are fishing illegally in protected areas.
We fear that these devices will be used to claim that PMFs can now be avoided very precisely, so the few areas where this type of fishing is not allowed, such as parts of the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area, might be opened up to dredging, with just small exclusions around the known PMF locations. Records of PMFs are far from complete and the unknown ones will be at risk.
Although the Government has designated 20% of our seas as Marine Protected Areas, boats using bottom-contacting methods are allowed to continued scraping 95% of Scotland’s seabed, and some boats illegally fish the remaining 5%, where they are banned. Marine Scotland Compliance seems unable to enforce the law.
The Scottish Government has control over the management of our inshore area within 12 nautical miles. Its agency, Marine Scotland, is obliged to follow Scotland’s National Marine Plan (NMP) and the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, which require it to put fisheries on a sustainable footing. The National Performance Framework also commits the Scottish Government,
“by 2020 [to] effectively regulate harvesting and end over-fishing … and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics”.
The Government has also committed to promote local, small-scale and sustainable fisheries, robust measures to protect vulnerable stocks, and “mechanisms for managing conflicts between fishermen” (Policy FISHERIES 1), so as to manage fisheries in the long-term public interest. Its marine planners must also identify marine carbon sinks and seek to avoid the “Colocaton of damaging activity”. Dredging disturbs the ability of seabed sediments to store carbon.
None of these obligations are being met by our Government. In fact, the Scottish Government has failed to meet 11 of the 15 indicators it uses to measure Good Environmental Status, allowing our marine environment to decline.
The longer Ministers stall, the more seabed habitats we lose and the harder it becomes for them and the species that rely on them to recover.
Our seas are a public asset and potential resource; they must be managed in a way that restores lost marine life and degraded fish stocks, and recovers the marine environment, so it can provide for us all into the future. To restore public confidence, Ministers must be guided by science and policy. We need urgent action to stop further destruction and improve the resilience of our seas.
So, what can be done to preserve what’s left and allow recovery?
The degradation can still be reversed. If we protect the seabed it will recover. If we take action, environmental and economic benefits will flow.
This European Environment Agency report, Marine Messages, states it clearly:
"Solutions for halting the loss of marine biodiversity and starting to restore ecosystem resilience, while allowing for the sustainable use of Europe's seas, are obvious and available. They just need to be implemented.”
But that is not happening in Scotland.
In the absence of any progress to protect and restore Scotland’s seabed habitats and animals, and with the laws on illegal fishing going unenforced, Our Seas calls on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government to implement their own policies and stop the chronic destruction of our seabed.
Reinstating a coastal limit on bottom-trawl and dredge fishing seems to be the only way for this to be enforceable, so Our Seas calls for the Scottish Government to act urgently on this.
Our Seas is campaigning to Bring Back the Fish - Bring Back Scotland's #InshoreLimit
Please help this to happen by signing and sharing the Our Seas petition here
Please join us in supporting this petition:-
Friends of the Sound of Jura have recently added their name to support a Global Call for the United Nations Human Rights Council to recognise without delay the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
In this time of climate emergency and COVID-19 crisis, we have come together as civil society organizations, social movements, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples to address the attached letter, calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to recognize without delay the human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. We respectfully ask you to join with us, support this call, and share it with other organizations that might be interested in joining this call.
Details can be found on the following link:
Friends of the Sound of Jura
Community Group Member of
The Coastal Communities Network, Scotland
Friends of the Sound of Jura is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation: SC049740