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Dredger Ban for Scotland’s Wester Ross Marine Protected Area

Sea Change, a local community group made up of members of the public, creel and dive fishermen and scientists on the West Coast of Scotland want dredgers banned and trawling limited in the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area.  Creels are used to catch langoustines, crabs and lobsters, much like lobster pots used in New England. Creel fisheries have strict minimum landings sizes and animals returned to the sea are unharmed.

Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, announced recently that a Marine Conservation Order (MCO) will end the highly destructive practice of scallop dredging within the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area and other west coast MPAs as well as limit trawls to specific areas. These measures affect less than 3.5 per cent of Scottish territorial waters. Further consultation has been offered to all parties to comment on this draft recommendation by the 7th August.

Sea Change, a group connected with other like minded community groups along the west coast such as C.O.A.S.T of Arran and other’s welcome this as a good first step. Sea Change has campaigned to end damaging fishing practices in order to save unique species; promote a sustainable fishery and involve the local community in the management of Scottish seas. Sea Change are working hard with these other west coast communities and fishing groups to ensure our marine protected areas are fairly managed for the greatest public benefit.  The proposals in Wester Ross may halt a sea in rapid decline. The inshore ecosystem has nearly been obliterated by over a hundred years of mismanagement.

Please sign ORI’s petition (click here), drafted in concert with Sea Change, to ban dredgers in the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area.  Industry will be pulling hard to block the Cabinet Secretary’s recommendations.

Wester Ross is on the north coast of the Highlands, north of Skye.  It is not to be confused with “Westeros,” a fictional continent in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”  However, Actor Rory McCann, known as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, born and raised in Glasgow, moors his sailboat in Wester Ross!

Alistair Sinclair is a creel fisherman and the head of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation which represents 80 per cent of Scotland’s inshore fishing fleet wants trawlers banned from inshore waters as far as the 3 mile limit. In the Herald, a Scottish national newspaper, he told a reporter.

          “What the government has proposed has been welcomed by our        members but we think that Richard Lochhead should be bolder ”    

Kelp Forest, Wester Ross

Kelp Forest, Wester Ross

Ali Hughson a scallop diver offers his account of a recent dive for scallops in support of a ban:

I send this to you all because I am frustrated with the lack of vision and forward thinking in our local fisheries.  It could be so much better.

On Wednesday we left Armadale and made for Tarscavaig in Loch Slapin.  The forecast was Nw 4 so I hoped to visit an area of good ground which we had left last June.  At that time it was looking promising with a large number of 120mm Scallops on the ground, nature returning, even some recovering Maerl on the ground.  It had had about 3 maybe 4 years of respite from dredging after Thomas Maclean had participated in a decommissioning scheme and scrapped the 8 a side Scallop dredger “Rebecca Maclean” which prosecuted the local grounds. 

We have followed our personal policy of leaving all Scallops below 110mm on the ground to grow and re-produce for the last five years or so, as a result we see the catches improve every year.  We used to “stash” small Scallops but didn’t see the point any more as there were no dredgers about to hide them from any more. 

We rounded Sleat point and it was quickly apparent that the weather would not allow us to work at Tarscavaig with a Sw 6-7 blowing.  As a result I made for the east side of the Aird peninsula and shelter.  En route I saw a scallop dredger working the ground which I had intended to work at Tarscavaig. 

That day, we dived on some 30m boulder ridges off Glasnakille.   These ridges usually produce a 50/50 mix of Scallops above 120mm and between 110-120mm.  Dives of 20-30kg are expected.  We found that the boulder ridges had been dredged heavily in the recent past.  With smashed Crab and Sea Urchin still containing their meat and innards.  I saw two heavily mangled balls of Crab creels during a dive here.  The ridges had been physically altered since my last visit, four years ago.  They were lower and the boulder which comprised them had been extensively scattered.  The Kelp which had been on top of the ridges was lying, torn and limp on the seabed around the boulders.  Scallops were in some cases fatally injured with chunks of shell and skirt torn out and in others completely smashed.  We averaged 10kg per dive over 5 dives and gave up.  It was heartbreaking.  The ridges did not even resemble those in my memory. 

Due to this and the improving weather conditions, Sw 3 by this time.  We made for Loch Eishort and the 20-25m boulder slopes and lumps which are in the mouth of Heast.  We did 7 more dives in this area and found the same scenario all over.  Smashed Urchin, Scallop and Crab, ripped up Kelp, torn and dying Anemone, (sorry, I dont know their name but they are the ones which can grow over a foot tall and inhabit muddy, tidal areas).  It was soul destroying. 

That Night we stayed at Heast and today we worked our way out the South shore of Eishort.  We did 9 dives today and on every one we saw the same level of devastation.  I did my last dive this afternoon on the gps plotter mark which we had left last June where the ground was recovering and looking in good shape.  I found that it had been dredged heavily.  It was no surprise.  I was moved to the point of tears by what I saw there.  I don’t need to describe it to you.  I don’t know if I have the words. The place was fresh in my mind from the last time I had dived it and has been ruined beyond recognition with the “ploughed field” scenario heavily evident.  Stones and boulders ripped up from under the sand/Maerl and fully exposed creating a Martian like surface.  The partially recovered Maerl no longer evident etc etc.  I quickly abandoned my intended plan and went up and over the rocky area I had planned to fish.  I found an area which the dredger had missed and bagged about 30kg of good large shells but that is not the point.  We are experienced resourceful Fishermen who will always find a spot to make a pound against the odds.  The fact that we are still in business proves this but there are many who have been less lucky and are no longer doing business.

Tilled sands after scallop dredging

Tilled sands after scallop dredging

Why? Why? Why? Do we need to see this cycle over and again.  Does the government not listen? Do they not care??  Do they have the slightest inclination about what is happening in our seas???

Post recession we have seen a recovery in the marine environment which we fish in.  This is due to the decrease in larger vessels towing dredges on the inshore grounds.  It had become unprofitable for them to do so; so many accepted a payment to remove their vessels from the fleet.  Unsurprisingly there has been a subsequent recovery in the stocks.  These stocks were previously over exploited and with a recent reduction in fuel costs and improvements in market conditions it has again become viable for smaller scale mobile vessels to dredge for Scallops in these areas.

I am angry at the Government who allows this continuing cycle of degradation to continue.  The point is that that one vessel will now be fatally damaging an unbelievably massive area of productive fishing ground which, given the chance, could support many local families in the same position.  Why should his actions, sanctioned by Marine Scotland, deny these other local men the chance to make a living, locally? 

We have the evidence, look at the Firth of Lorn!  We have the ability to change it for the better.  Why are we still talking about this??

Scotland Wester Ross overview map

In 2014 Sea Change’s petition to ban dredgers in the Marine Protected Area received widespread support.  It is great news that this petition together with many other supporting voices along the west coast, have been endorsed within the Government’s draft response.

The Government’s good proposal is being challenged by those supporting the continued use of dredgers and the mobile sector within MPA’s.  It is absolutely essential that those who support the banning of dredgers and believe these draft proposals need to become law should sign Sea Change’s petition to demonstrate that there is much support for the ban on dredgers.

Sign and comment on ORI’s petition: Dredger Ban for Scotland’s Wester Ross Marine Protected Area


106 responses on “Dredger Ban for Scotland’s Wester Ross Marine Protected Area

  1. Margaret Keller

    With the world’s fish populations crashing, it is time for humans to stop exploiting the oceans’ wildlife. Go vegetarian!!

  2. Glyn Deputy

    Thank you for absolutely protecting the health and sanity of earth’s supreme biodiversity, for hundreds of years to come.

  3. L.A.

    Please exclude scallop dredging from the highly sensitive Wester Ross Marine Protected Area, and please limit trawls into this area.

  4. Nicole Fountain

    Dredgers and gill nets have no place in our oceans! These methods/tools are indiscriminate killers of everything in their path and are rapidly decimating untold highly and critically endangered marine mammals, fish, coral reefs and ocean vegetation.

    Please ban dredgers for good. With evil corporate behemoths like BP in the waters extincting and/or annihilating species for generations to come–in addition to killing humans, livelihoods. . .our very earth–we need Scotland to be a trailblazer in banning these horrific practices. Your country can be the catalyst that sparks positive ocean-management reform around the world!

    Thank you soooooooooo much!!!!

  5. Fred Gillespie

    As a native Scot living in America I have always taken pride in the concern Scots have had for their environment. I sincerely hope that tradition holds true in the matter of continued dredging in Wester Ross.

  6. Pat Blackwell-Marchant

    We must protect our lands and waterways before we lose them!
    Uphold the ban on dredgers and other destructive mining practices!

  7. Chance Rearden

    I support for the ban on dredgers. We are stewards of the lands that we were lucky enough to be born into, therefore it is imperative that we act with the proper respect to protect it.

  8. john p depetris

    this goes on everywhere and its due to uninformed or careless people ;in aworld that is depleting in all things each individual would be accountable for something even if it was just for to say to another and laws as to not being involved should be put in force and fines enacted for such uncaring ignorance at this crucial time in our earths history.

  9. Graham E. Smith

    Sign this petition and help to save our renewable food supplies from contiueing International Industrial Rape and destruction.

  10. anita jennings

    unfortunately, without rules and regulations, this stock would be destroyed. obviously, as with most things, there is no self regulation. greed and immediate gain rules

  11. Anne Klein

    We really need to think about the future of the planet, especially if one has offspring who will inherit this increasingly depleted world.

  12. Barry Miller

    Who are the people in favor of dredging? What companies do they represent? Is their willingness to be so destructive a matter of profit being more important than nature?

  13. Patricia Frederick

    Too many species of creatures on our planet are being driven to extinction by human greed and carelessness. We need to consider long-term consequences of our interactions with natural resources. NO MORE DREDGING!

  14. Paul Richey

    I am a Scot living now in the state of Pennsylvania where my distant ancestor, Robert Richey once lived in the 18th century.
    As a former resident of Oregon on our West Coast I heartily endorse your taking good care of the seacoast and offshore
    areas to the Northwest.

  15. Dale Atkins

    Dredging is an extremely destructive way of fishing, in addition to the fish they catch they heavily damage the floors of the oceans and fished areas. It needs to be better controlled to protect sensitive areas and important bodies of water. We need to fight for the future of our earth.

  16. Susan Anderson

    What a horrible thing. Is there no corner of the earth that cannot be polluted to deny us all a future, in favor of stubborn resistance to reality and wealth creation?

  17. Luther E. Franklin

    With 7.3 Billion Human Lemmings and still increasing Exponentially, this is No Time to be destroying the food chain!

  18. Anne Klein

    Dredging does an inestimable amount of damage to all creatures that live in relatively close proximity to the seabed being dredged, and not just to the target species. Areas so affected might never recover.

  19. Mark

    “Smashed Urchin, Scallop and Crab, ripped up Kelp, torn and dying Anemone”, in the Wester Ross Marine PROTECTED? Area. What a tragedy – sounds more like a devastated area to me. If the gov’t of Scotland wants to not be regarded as a joke, I suggest they actually protect that area from dredgers, before there is nothing left but rubble.

  20. Audrey Lloyd

    Damaging precious and fragile natural resources for short term economics gain is a habit mankind must quit; otherwise there will be no resources left for future generations. Life will become unsustainable for humans and thousands of other species on this planet in the not too distant future unless actions are taken now to preserve the life that is here now on earth.

  21. Stephen Wille

    Work to protect the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area from damaging sea floor dredging and indiscriminate harvest by trawling. Future generations will thank you.

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