The whole Western Isles prawn fleet and processing plants in Barra and Stornoway will be adversely affected if Marine Scotland goes ahead with proposed restrictions on fishing effort in the Minch.
This serious threat to the local fishing industry was highlighted in the Stornoway Gazette on May 21 with local fishermen voicing their concerns that due to an influx of large fishing vessels from the East Coast, the level of fishing allowed in West Coast in the year would be used up by September.
Marine Scotland said at the time they were monitoring the situation but now look set to place temporary restrictions on prawn fishing on the West coast. Most of the East Coast vessels have now left and so the restrictions will only punish the local fleet.
Marine Scotland started their consultation on this issue on Tuesday this week with responses having to be returned by yesterday (Thursday).
Western Isles Fishermen’s Association have responded to the consultation stressing that this will damage the local industry who have always followed sustainable practices.
The restrictions would particularly affect the fishing industry on Barra which supports not only 30 jobs at sea but also 40 jobs onshore at the processing plant.
Youngs Factory in Stornoway, which currently employs 50 people, is also likely to be affected.
In a response to the consultation, Duncan Macinnes, Secretary of WIFA said the proposals were unacceptable and suggested some alternatives.
He said: “We firmly believe that a balanced, sensible approach must be adopted to ensure that the future activity of the genuine traditional West Coast TR2 fleet is maintained at a level which will allow those vessels to remain viable. It would be morally wrong to impose severe restrictions on vessels that have not altered their fishing pattern to satisfy a Cod Recovery Plan that is fundamentally flawed and unless challenged will destroy traditional coastal fishing communities.”
Some of the proposals are: Fishing vessels of over 10 metres administered by Marine Scotland from the East Coast will, temporarily, no longer be permitted on West Coast carrying gear category TR2; Fishing vessels not included in that restriction may be present in the area for up to 16 days during any calendar month, except for vessels of engine capacity of 300kW or more which may be present for up to ten days; Time at sea during voyages carrying gear category TR2 in West Coast will be counted in days and not hours.
Local fishermen feel the restrictions will penalise their industry which has always followed sustainable practices and are pushing for a longer term solution such as a horsepower restriction on vessels of over 450Kw.