According to a new report, a locally-led fisheries management pilot for the Outer Hebrides is reporting positive impacts on fishing businesses and the environment in its first year.
The Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Pilot is co-managed by the Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (RIFG) and the Marine Scotland Directorate of the Scottish Government.
It limits the number of creels that commercial fishing vessels may work in the waters around the isles, with the aim of improving the management of shellfish stocks in area.
‘It’s been a challenging time in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit and the Ukraine conflict, and the rising cost of fuel, creel and nephrops catches are particular concerns,’ said Donald MacLennan, skipper of the Harris-based Valhalla.
‘In spite of these challenges, the first year of the Pilot has worked fewer creels and reduced time at sea, leading to a significant improvement in our gross income. I believe the Pilot proves that with creel fishing, less can be more.’
The Pilot is also testing one possible approach to a low-cost vessel tracking solution for small inshore fishing vessels. This is being trialled aboard 40 vessels and builds on the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System (SIFIDS) project led by the University of St Andrews.
‘The Pilot has brought a sense of stability to the fleet, especially in relation to uncontrolled creel fishing. The initial success has been encouraging to the members of WIFA and we would like to see an extension of the initiative to cover a much larger area of the Western Isles,’ said Duncan MacInnes, Secretary of the Western Isles Fisherman’s Association (WIFA).
The Pilot will continue with vessel tracking until October 2022. An evaluation and qualitative assessment of the Pilot project will be conducted throughout 2022 to assess the social and economic impacts of the Pilot, and provide insights and recommendations into future projects.