Marine Scotland may impose temporary control measures in the Minch as a result of a huge rise in fishing effort caused by the influx of east coast boats over the last few months.
Western Isles Fishermen’s Association are furious that the local fleet could now be punished by temporary restrictive measures for a problem they did not cause. Most of the east coast fleet have now left and so the measures will only affect the west coast boats.
There is a limit on the amount of prawn fishing allowed in the Minch and due to the arrival of large boats from the east, the fishing effort was dramatically increased.
The issue has been raised time and time again with Marine Scotland andlocal skippers have been calling for a horsepower limit in the Minch.
Duncan Macinnes, Secretary of the the Fishermen’s Association met with Alasdair Allan MSP and Angus MacNeil MP yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss the situation and was due to speak with affected skippers from Stornoway and Barra last night.
The association must respond to the Marine Scotland proposals by today (Thursday).
Mr Macinnes said: “The current shambolic situation has been allowed to arise despite several West Coast interest having previously raised their concerns with Marine Scotland.
“The current proposals will result in the traditional West Coast vessels taking all the pain for a situation that they did not create, whilst the East Coast vessels that have caused the problem now return to the North Sea to continue their future year’s fishing with no added restrictions. the North Sea to continue their future year’s fishing with no added restrictions.
“The future economic viability of West Coast vessels will be severely restricted, as will the impact on the onshore processing factories that used to take supplies from the those vessels that will now be restricted in their future fishing operations for the next six months.”
Western Isles MSP said he was pleased Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, has agreed to meet with the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association.
Dr Allan said: “Angus Macneil MP and I met with the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association to discuss their concerns, and both Angus and myself have been in touch with Richard Lochhead asking for him to meet them also.
“I am pleased that he will be meeting the association about what is an urgent issue.
“The Cabinet Secretary has recognised the importance of the industry to the Western Isles economy through his recent decision to limit access to the prawn fishery in many west coast areas to west coast boats.
“It is, however, clear that fishermen have legitimate concerns to ensure that there remains enough effort allocation for this year for island-based prawn boats to retain their viability. This is an issue I continue to raise with the government.”