Marine Scotland Blog
An area of the Firth of Clyde will again be closed to most types of fishing activity in spring 2024 and 2025 to protect spawning cod.
The closure has been in place each year since 2002 during the cod spawning season. While there has been variation, the closures in 2024 and 2025 will be on the same basis as in 2022 and 2023, prohibiting most types of fishing activity for eleven weeks from 14 February to 30 April.
During spawning, cod are vulnerable to disruption. Cod mate by lekking, a behaviour also found in birds such as black grouse and capercaillie. Male cod become territorial and take possession of an area of the seabed, defending it from other males. They use muscles around their swim bladders to make grunting and rumbling sounds to attract females. When focussed on mating, cod are less likely to try and avoid fishing gear so are particularly vulnerable to being caught. If disturbed, cod are unlikely to return and may not mate at all that year, with research suggesting that any activity within 10m of the seabed could disrupt spawning activity.
The closure takes account of the cod’s preference to spawn on gravel and coarse sand, with these areas closed. Surrounding areas, where the seabed is softer sand and mud and cod are less likely to spawn, remain open to fishing.
We consulted on renewing the management measures last year with a majority of respondents supporting the closure.
The eleven-week closure will have short-term impact on local fishers. Fishing for nephrops in the closure area will be prohibited due to the risk of inadvertently catching cod (by-catch), or otherwise disturbing cod spawning sites with fishing gear. However, the closure is part of a range of fisheries management measures which aim to replenish cod stocks in the medium to longer term, creating a more sustainable fishery benefitting our marine eco-system and fishing industry in the West of Scotland.
We base fisheries management decisions on the best available science. Recent ICES advice on northern shelf cod (the wider stock which includes cod found spawning in the Firth of Clyde) is much more positive than it once was, showing a stock in recovery. However, it is still appropriate for us to take a precautionary approach with robust management measures to protect spawning and juvenile fish in our inshore waters.
We will be enhancing data collection and monitoring in the Clyde during the closure to help inform future management decisions. We are also committed to working with our Coastal States partners Norway and the EU to review the management measures in place for the wider northern shelf cod stock.
The closure for 2024 and 2025 is implemented by a Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI) laid in the Scottish Parliament on 11 January 2024. The closure is in effect from 14 February to 30 April in 2024 and 2025.
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Net Zero Secretary Màiri McAllan visited Kelso for the opening of the 2024 salmon fishing season on the Tweed and to launch the Sustainable Rivers Audit.
She joined the Duchess of Sutherland, the River Tweed Commission, River Tweed Foundation, The Tweed Forum, fishers and community members to mark the formal opening of the river before launching the Audit, which will help improve understanding of where management action needs to be taken to benefit wild salmon.
Màiri McAllan said: “I was very pleased to be in the Borders to take part in the opening of the 2024 season and to launch the Sustainable Rivers Audit.
“Atlantic salmon are one of our most iconic species and Scottish Government is committed to working with our partners, both domestic and international, to protect and restore populations.
“Free access to cold, clean water is essential for wild salmon. A year ago we published our Wild Salmon Strategy Implementation Plan which sets out over sixty actions to tackle the wide range of pressures on wild salmon, including planting riverside trees to protect rivers from rising temperatures and restoring natural river flows by removing weirs that are no longer in use.
“The work that will be carried out as part of the Sustainable Rivers Audit will therefore be invaluable to us all in better understanding and improving the catchment and we are grateful to the Tweed Commission and Foundation as critical partners in our efforts.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the audit and I wish everyone a successful 2024 season.”
Jamie Stewart, Chief Executive of the River Tweed Commission said: “We were really pleased to be able to host the Cabinet Secretary. Her knowledge and contribution to the debate was well received, as was her commitment to visit again to discuss in detail our ongoing relationship with other stakeholders to ensure we have the best opportunity to have cold clean water to support those returning salmon and the nurseries for the future.
“We look forward to working with the Cabinet Secretary and her parliamentary colleagues as we work towards a partnership to mitigate the decline in the iconic Atlantic salmon.”
This follows the announcement this week of the award of grants worth £14 million from the Marine Fund Scotland 2023-24, including several aimed at protecting and conserving wild salmon populations.
Fisheries Management Scotland, the representative body for District Salmon Fishery Boards and Rivers/Fisheries Trusts, has received a combined £750,000 for four projects. This will include the management of invasive non-native pink salmon in Scotland as well as the purchase of equipment to support monitoring.
Dr Alan Wells, CEO of Fisheries Management Scotland said:
“Fisheries Management Scotland is extremely grateful for this important support from Marine Fund Scotland, which recognises that Scotland’s wild Atlantic salmon are a conservation priority. Our members are working tirelessly to protect, conserve and restore Scotland’s wild salmon populations and this vital funding will support these crucial efforts.
“This funding will directly support actions identified in Scotland’s Wild Salmon Strategy. It will support efforts to understand the abundance of young salmon in our rivers, identify and quantify pressures, and highlight the management actions required to address them. It will also support practical action to manage pressures faced by Scotland’s wild salmon, including predation and invasive, non-native pink salmon.”Background
Fishing for sandeel is to be banned in Scottish waters ahead of the 2024 fishery season, subject to Parliamentary approval.
Sandeel support the long term sustainability and resilience of the marine ecosystem and are an important food source for many species, including marine mammals, seabirds and predatory fish.
Commercial fishing for sandeel is currently carried out entirely by European vessels. In recognition of the importance of the species to marine biodiversity, no fishing quota has been allocated to UK vessels since 2021.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon said:
“Sandeel are a vital part of our marine ecosystem and a critical component of the food chain in the North Atlantic.
“It is critical that we manage our marine environment in a such a way as to ensure its sustainable use, protecting biodiversity and ensuring healthy functioning ecosystems.
“Prohibiting all vessels from fishing for sandeel in Scottish waters will help provide long term sustainability and benefits not just for sandeel but also for seabirds, marine mammals and other fish species.
“This decision reflects overwhelming support for our proposals, the scientific evidence base and our longstanding position not to support fishing for sandeel as set out in Scotland’s Future Fisheries Management Strategy.”
The Scottish Government consulted on proposals to close fishing for sandeel in Scottish waters in 2023, with 97% of respondents indicating support for the preferred option.
The UK Government has today also indicated its intention to close Area 4 of the North Sea in English waters for sandeel fishing.
The SEA FISHING (PROHIBITION ON FISHING FOR SANDEEL) ORDER 2024 will be laid before Parliament on 5 February.
The Order is subject to a negative procedure and if approved and made, will come into force on 26 March 2024
Consultations with Norway on exchanges of fishing opportunities with the UK in 2024, including quotas and access, concluded with the signing of an Agreed Record on 14 December. Fishing activity has now commenced in both UK and Norwegian waters under the terms of this agreement.
The agreement includes reciprocal access for demersal stocks such as haddock, cod and plaice, which will allow Scottish fishers to catch up to 30,000 tonnes of their existing North Sea quotas in Norwegian waters. Access has also been agreed for North Sea herring in UK waters, and Atlanto-Scandian herring in Norwegian waters, up to a cap of 20,000 tonnes. These are the same levels of access agreed for 2023.
Exchanges of quotas have also been agreed, including an inward transfer to the UK of monkfish, a key stock for many Scottish vessels.
Discussions with the Faroe Islands on further exchanges of opportunities are ongoing.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon said:
“Norway is a key partner and we welcome the agreed additional opportunities and flexibility for Scotland’s fishing industry in 2024.
“I would like to thank our negotiators for consistently seeking the best outcomes for Scotland by securing sustainable and evidence-based catching-opportunities.
“This package provides additional opportunities and flexibility for Scotland’s fishing industry and builds on the good relations that we have with Norway, following successful implementation of bilateral arrangements over the last two years.”
The UK signed a Framework Agreement on Fisheries with Norway in 2020. Bilateral exchanges of opportunities were agreed for 2022 and 2023.
Through the UK/Norway agreement, Scottish vessels will be able to fish key whitefish stocks in Norwegian waters of subarea 4 (North Sea), including haddock, cod, monkfish, hake, saithe, whiting, and plaice. Pelagic vessels are granted access to fish Atlanto-Scandian herring.
The UK has exchanged out quotas including Greenland halibut, saithe, ling, and tusk.
The Agreed Record can be viewed here.
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We have published our new Marine Science and Innovation Strategy highlighting the crucial role of science and innovation in realising the full potential of the marine environment.
The strategy – part of our Blue Economy Vision to 2045 – is a blueprint for the Scottish Government to utilise the best available science, evidence and data for making informed marine management decisions that benefit the economy, environment and society, including coastal and island communities.
It also includes a commitment for innovation through using the latest technology, such as artificial intelligence, including holographic cameras, drones and submersibles, and non-destructive environmental DNA (eDNA), to model and understand Scotland’s marine environment.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Islands and Land Reform Mairi Gougeon said:
Over a century of science, data and evidence has already shaped our understanding of Scotland’s seas and rivers. Our commitment to science and innovation is not just for exploration but to make a tangible and positive impact for the marine environment, our economy and our cultural heritage.
This ambitious new strategy will give us further evidence to respond to biodiversity loss and the impact of climate change, and to make the most of the opportunities our marine and freshwater environments have for our communities.
The strategy was presented to science, data, analysis and engineering stakeholders at the formal opening of the Helen Ogilvie Hub at the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. The hub is named after one of the laboratory’s first female scientists, who was appointed in 1911 and studied plankton in Scottish waters and their role in the marine food chain.Further information
- One of the first steps will be to map the marine and freshwater science and innovation capability and capacity across Scotland with partners. An operational plan to deliver the strategy will be created, and an Areas of Research Interest (ARI) scoping exercise will enable research priorities and knowledge transfer to key communities of interest.
- A new Scientist-in-Charge (SiC) pathway will increase diversity, inclusion and equality for early career scientists, equipping Scottish Government scientists for leadership roles on land and at sea aboard research vessels.
- The Scottish Government’s Marine Directorate has hundreds of scientists, engineers, analysts and data experts working to deliver impactful research outputs, data modelling which feed into sustainable management of Scotland’s marine and river ecosystems, and science, evidence and data for regulatory and statutory duties, such as monitoring for pollutants in seas.
- The Helen Ogilvie Hub opening event featured a speech from Professor Selina Stead, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor for the Marine Management Organisation and Executive Dean of Environment at the University of Leeds.
The annual meeting of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) took place between 14-17 November 2023 in London, with parties agreeing on a number of proposals which aim to ensure the conservation and best use of fishery resources in the NEAFC Regulatory Area.
The meeting was attended by all six Contracting Parties to the NEAFC Convention. Key outcomes of the annual meeting included a rollover of the existing closure of the Rockall haddock box, a measure which protects juvenile haddock in the area. This closure has been in place for a number of years, and the UK worked together with the EU on this measure, which was agreed by consensus.
Measures were adopted for mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring (ASH) in the NEAFC Regulatory Area (international waters) in 2024. These measures reflect the outcomes of Coastal State consultations and prevent countries who are not Coastal States or fishing parties to fish for these stocks. Discussions on blue whiting measures will continue and if required a recommendation will be considered through written procedure at a later date.
A number of stock specific management measures were adopted. These include prohibiting a directed fishery for basking sharks, deep-sea rays, deep-sea sharks and chimaeras from 2024-2027. In addition, for 2024 there will be no direct fishery for porbeagle. Finally, a restriction of fisheries on blue ling during its spawning period for the period 2024-2027 was also adopted.
A climate change proposal was adopted, which sets out the high-level aspirations and principles to better understand the impacts that climate change is having on NEAFC regulated stocks and the marine environment.
A proposal for Other Effective Area Based Conservation Measures (OECM) was adopted. This recognises current closed areas as OECMs. It also includes an International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) request for advice on the biodiversity/eco-system benefits of the areas restricted to bottom fishing in the NEAFC Regulatory Area.
Parties also agreed to adopt a number of control and enforcement measures and Cooperating Non-Contracting Party (CNCP) status was renewed for Canada, the Bahamas, and Panama.
Measures currently in place at NEAFC can be viewed on the NEAFC website.
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