“What does it say about us if we do nothing?”
Those were the words of Alistair Sinclair, National Coordinator of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCCF). He had been discussing the decline of fisheries which he had witnessed over the course of his life as a fishermen – from his youth fishing rivers and sea lochs to now.
There has been a rapid loss of marine ecosystems due to dredging and trawling since the Three Mile Limit was lifted, compounded by salmon farming on an industrial scale in our inshore waters. These activities often coincide with important nursery and spawning grounds as well as vulnerable priority marine features. White fish and herring fisheries have been lost – so have wild salmon and sea trout.
Alistair speaks for the low impact, high value prawn and scallop fishermen… he knows that we are ‘fishing the bottom of the food chain’. Martin Luther King had the same sentiments as Alistair, when he observed that those who passively accept situations they know to be wrong are complicit too. For if one does not protest then one is really cooperating with it. In this case it is the Scottish Government which is overlooking the situation.
Readers please open the link below to see the letter of appeal written to the First Minister from 40 marine groups asking for the restoration of our inshore waters. This was sent just before Christmas 2018, it was triggered by the illegal dredging within Protected Areas by scallop dredgers of maerl beds which herring spawn on.
In December 2018 the call had gone out to all those along the coast who already shared the conviction that our seas, fisheries and ecosystems are urgently needing protection. By all accounts even the fisheries we are now treating like monocultures are declining, at least outside protected areas.
The call was to gather in Oban to decide on the collective response to these illegal dredging incidents. Especially because they are occurring within the small percentage of sea Scotland has legally protected.
The concern was also about legal dredging too. Vast areas of the seabed (around 15% of inshore waters are particularly intensively dredged). Scallop divers have observed (see the film below) that as a result of intensive dredging some parts have become wastelands before we even know what species are being destroyed.
The collective response was tremendous. On the 5th of December, a large group of committed people gathered from far and wide, despite the cold, dark night and late night travelling… Out of this Oban meeting an astonishing number of groups began working collectively to push for the kind of change which would halt the decline. Over 40 groups signed it.
A series of events had led up to the final trigger point…. Firstly in Wester Ross the largest flame shell bed in the world was discovered. This was unknown until a dredger legally ‘ploughed’ through it sending alarm bells ringing about what important species was being damaged on a daily basis as dredgers operating blind to what was below… A few divers had gone to have a look. They found much more than they anticipated. A vast flame shell bed of millions of clams, the likes of which had not been found before.
The Firth of Lorne, one of the oldest MPAs (12 years old) was a constant target for illegal dredging. These incursions were documented by David Ainsley who had been instrumental in securing the protected status himself and has overseen a remarkable recovery hindered by illegal dredging – largely overlooked by marine compliance.
Next, illegal dredging destroyed a maerl bed within a protected area near Gairloch. This made headline news as it had recently been where herring had chosen to spawn. A few months before this illegal dredging, scallop divers had filmed the area in huge excitement at the discovery of this vast herring spawning ground. It was 2km x 1km. Everyone in the Wester Ross area had felt such high hopes for the restoration of the herring fishery. It was blind destruction.
A large network of well informed coastal residents, anglers and fishermen working with evidence and local knowledge has been forming for years now. Many of us have a coastal neighbourhood watch scheme going. People are connected by a common feeling that enough is enough and urgent action is needed for the sake of all our future. See for yourself with this film The Wastelands in the Sea by a Scallop Diver.
Watch it and ask yourself – Is protecting the sea really not a Non Zero Sum game? A solution in which we all win. That’s if we treat those who stand to lose access to these fishing grounds with respect and ensure they are helped to adjust.
President Clinton suggested some time ago that the times we live in are about finding these non zero sum solutions. Ones which recognise our interdependency and articulates the need for evolution which serves us all. Have a watch
Non-Zero Sum Solution – YouTube
“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. [Commencement Address at American University, June 10 1963]” ― John F. Kennedy
Will our politicians have the courage to do what we all know is urgent? If you want to help please join us and get in touch.