Fish Legal is challenging a decision by the Scottish Government to refuse to sanction an inshore fisheries pilot designed to assess the comparative economic and environmental performance of fishing with low impact static gear compared with trawled fishing gear.
There has been increasing concern that inshore trawlers which target Nephrops, a large prawn, have a very high level of bycatch of commercial fish species and that this has contributed to the collapse of inshore fish populations on the west coast of Scotland over the last 30 years.
The pilot, which was planned for the Inner Sound of Skye was an opportunity to see whether a policy to restrict the use of mobile or trawled gear in favour of static creel fishing would lead to a recovery of the inshore fishery as well create more jobs.
The Scottish Government encouraged local fishermen to submit proposals for inshore Pilots under their 2017 Inshore fishery Pilot programme.
The guide to the programme stated that Pilot proposal would be assessed on the basis of specified criteria including what evidence the planned Pilot would contribute to improve fishery management.
In this case the Scottish Government rejected the Inner Sound proposal because it was not popular with the mobile sector and they failed, unlawfully in the opinion of Fish Legal, to apply their own criteria to determine the matter.
Permission for a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s decision was granted by the Court of Session on 7 August 2020.