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Commercial Fishing



Clyde fishers call for science-based approach to alleviate cod closure impact. With an area of the Firth of Clyde again being closed to most types of fishing activity in spring 2024 and 2025 to protect spawning cod, the Clyde Fishermen’s Association (CFA) is calling for a science-based approach to local fisheries management to ensure better data helps guide the decision-making process.

Elaine Whyte, executive secretary of the CFA, told Fish Focus that previous short-term collaborative work with Marine Scotland and St Andrews University between 2016 and 2018 had fostered greater understanding and trust between fishers, scientists and government, and formed the potential for further development to ensure an evidential approach to fisheries management.

A cod fishing closure has been in place each year since 2002 during the cod spawning season. While there has been variation, the closures in 2024 and 2025 will be on the same basis as in 2022 and 2023, prohibiting most types of fishing activity for eleven weeks from 14 February to 30 April.

“The closure causes all kinds of problems for our members, including the inevitable displacement of fishing activity which puts more pressure onto other areas,” she says.  “In addition, when the area does reopen, a honeypot effect can be created leading to increased and heavier fishing in the area, attracting boats from outside the region.”

The Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government maintains that spawning cod are vulnerable to disturbance during the spawning season and that a seasonal fishing ban will help rebuild stocks. However, the CFA is not convinced on the merits of such a ban and that the decision is based more on politics rather than science. Putting more resources towards science, and truly involving fishermen in the data gathering process, would resolve that imbalance and bring other benefits, too.

“It is strange that our boats are banned from fishing in the closed areas, yet other vessels continue to access the area, including sonar work by survey vessels – some have commented this may have the potential to cause disturbance to spawning cod” says Elaine Whyte. “The closure causes real difficulties for both our mobile and small-boat static gear fishermen. Our creel fishermen need time to remove their gear from the fishing grounds before the ban is imposed, during which period larger, nomadic creel boats can quickly move in and fish the vacant ground harder before the closure even starts.”

The CFA recently met with Gillian Martin, who was briefly the inshore Scottish fisheries minister, to discuss their concerns and the need for fisheries management to be evidence-based. When the seasonal ban was first introduced as recommended by local fishermen themselves, there were eight whitefish vessels in the Clyde fleet who could potentially fish for cod, now there are none.

Recent ICES advice on northern shelf cod, which includes the cod found spawning in the Firth of Clyde, is much more positive than it once was, showing evidence of recovery.

“Better science, involving local fishermen, would help gauge the extent of that recovery and lead to better overall management, which would benefit both fishermen and fish stocks,” said Elaine Whyte.