Dredger violation impacts on local creelers
COAST advocates the continuation of well-managed creeling, hand diving and sea angling within the South Arran MPA. We were therefore as surprised as local creelers by an emergency Marine Conservation Order which prohibits them fishing within three Marine Protected Area (MPA) sub sections. This was imposed, we are told, after a scallop dredger violated a voluntary agreement to stay out of maerl beds within the MPA prior to considered management being put in place. Neither COAST nor local creelers were consulted. The attitude of the Scottish Fishermen's Associations and Marine Scotland seems to be that if dredgers are to be excluded then so must creelers. However, sustainably managed creeling has minimal impact on the seabed and creelers avoid maerl beds as they are not lobster grounds. Unfortunately, the Order as it stands covers some areas of seabed which are not maerl and penalises local creelers for the actions of a few rogue scallopers. There are dozens of scientific papers showing the impact of dredging on seabed habitats. A 'plough' being dragged across the seabed is clearly going to destroy maerl beds. While COAST welcomes the exclusion of dredgers and trawlers from these areas as a first step towards prohibiting this activity from the entire MPA we do not agree that creelers should be treated in the same way as dredgers. This fails to recognise that well-managed creeling can be sustainable. We urge Richard Lochhead to remove this ban on local creelers and to begin discussions with them to resolve the issue. A well managed MPA has the potential to benefit sustainable fishing methods as well as provide a real boost for leisure activities in the area based on recovering marine life.