A permit system could be considered to prevent hobby/unlicensed fishermen landing large amounts of shellfish for personal consumption.
There are concerns that unlicensed scallop divers are taking enough shellfish ashore “to fill several large sacks” and unlicensed fishers are setting creels to catch much more than could be considered a “reasonable amount”.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on Measures for Hobby/Unlicensed Fishermen in Scottish Inshore Waters that could include the introduction of landing limits on species such as lobsters, crabs and scallops.
The Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have indicated their support for some regulation.
A report which will be presented to a meeting of councillors this week states that unlicensed fishing is not a big issue in the islands but that regulation could be advantageous.
The draft Comhairle response to the Scottish Government consultation states: “The effort and impact of unlicensed and hobby fishermen on stocks in the Outer Hebrides is unknown and may undermine conservation measures being introduced, undertaken and maintained by licensed fishermen. In the interests of long-term sustainability it is important to know what impact annual catches are having on the stocks of different species. To achieve this some form of regulation in the form of a permit for unlicensed fishermen is advantageous.”
The Scottish Government stresses it doesn’t wish to put people off fishing for personal consumption but says this “should not be used as a smokescreen by unlicensed commercial fishermen to evade licensing and other requirements that the majority of law abiding commercial fishermen comply with”.
The Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group, in its response to the consultation, suggested that lobster, brown crab and scallops should be limited and that numbers should be lower than those currently permitted by licensed vessels without a shellfish entitlement, which is five lobster or 25 crabs.
It also states that personal consumption should be defined by taking into consideration the value attached to catch retained and number that can be reasonably consumed by a family of four.