The Court of Session in Edinburgh has granted permission for the judicial challenge of a decision by the Scottish Government to refuse a fisheries Pilot proposal put forward by a west coast creeling association. The Pilot was designed to test the environmental and economic benefits of creating ‘trawl free’ potting zones in the inshore.
There has been mounting evidence that the use of trawled fishing gear in the inshore has caused widespread ecological damage including significant declines in the diversity and size of commercial fish species.
The Pilot, which was for the Inner Sound of Skye, was submitted under a Government Pilot Programme whereby local community groups could put forward a pilot proposal to be approved if it could be shown that it met certain criteria including improving the evidence base for fisheries management.
The petition for judicial review is being brought the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation with the assistance of Fish Legal on the basis that the Scottish Government rejected the Pilot because of objections from the mobile fishing communities instead of applying their own published criteria for assessing pilot proposals set out in their own Guidance.
Robert Younger of Fish Legal said:
This Pilot could have added vital empirical evidence to the growing evidence base showing that ‘trawl free’ Potting Zones are not only much better for the environment but are actually economically better as well. This was potentially a vital Pilot pointing the way for recovery of fish populations and the reversal of decades of decline in our inshore fisheries, including recreational sea angling.”
Alistair Sinclair, National co-ordinator of SCFF said
“Unfortunately the decision to refuse the Inner Sound Pilot follows a predictable pattern whereby the Scottish Government appear to allow powerful mobile fishery interests a veto on any change that might threaten their freedom to trawl in the inshore. The Scottish Government need to remember that they should be managing our fisheries in the public interest and not just for the mobile sector.”
- Details of Scottish Government Inshore Pilot Programme (including the Guidance) can be found here. In the accompanying press release Mr Ewing said “These pilots will investigate how we can best manage our inshore fisheries and whether there are now and innovative ways of sustainably maximising the benefits of the sector…”
- The consultation and outcome report on the Inner Sound pilot proposal can be found here. The Inshore Fisheries Pilot: Inner Sound of Skye: Consultation Outcome Report which confirmed the Scottish Government’s decision that the Pilot Proposal would not be implemented was published on 26 February 2020.
- The substantive hearing of the judicial review will take place in the Court of Session in Edinburgh this autumn, with a procedural hearing on 16 September 2020. Both hearings are open to members of the public.
- The permission hearing took place on 21 July 2020.