The 2018-19 Solway Code of Conduct is now available, following an annual review by the Solway Subcommittee, and is effective as of 1 November. The Code follows the principle of ‘Phone first’ and continues to largely prevent incidents of gear conflict.
Details pertaining to Luce Bay and Sands SPA, including a diagrammatic map of the area and links to coordinates, have been included in the code to assist vessels mainly from outwith the Solway identify the derogated scalloping zones.
- The Solway Work Group met with consultants who will undertake outreach support work to advance a strategy aimed at allowing a commercially led hand gathering trial to take place. It is expected that the consultants will report back to the work group in the early New Year.
- A well-attended Management Committee, with VC connections from five separate locations in the RIFG's area, met on the 30 October in Glasgow. Members were updated on progress with the SIFIDS project including the development of a smartphone application (app) for fishermen to record various data, including information currently recorded on the Fish 1 form. The meeting was also joined by representatives from SSEN to explore future collaboration with respect to marine mitigation and co-existence.
Members reviewed the voluntary closure of Loch Sunart and agreed it should lapse at midnight on the 31 October in line with the WCRIFG letter issued on the 30 September 2018. It is believed that no vessels breached the voluntary closure during the period it was in place.
- Development of a Solway Cockle relaying project (See July 2018) continues to progress and an application for EMFF will be submitted in full before the December 2018 deadline.
- A Clyde Scallop Study proposal (See July 2018) is progressing and a full EMFF application will be submitted by the December 2018 deadline.
- The Mull Crab Pilot Project Work Group met in September in advance of a spatial separation trial starting on 1 October. During the period from 1 October until 28 February, a maximum of five crab fishermen will have sole access to a crab box West of Mull with each vessel limited to deploying no more than 300 creels. The trial will be repeated in 2019/20 when scallop vessels using mobile gears will again remain out of the crab box during the four-month period from 1 October. Crab fishermen involved in the trials, together with others from elsewhere in the WCRIFG area, will undertake crab tagging. Tagging is used to track the movement of brown crab and improve understanding of their migration. Tagging will complement work which has been ongoing in Orkney.
- The Solway Subcommittee met in late September to review and agree the Solway Code of Conduct in advance of the start of the scallop season on the 1 November. No incidents of gear conflict were noted during 2017-18 in Wigtown Bay or Luce Bay and members believe the Code is the primary reason for this. Members also agreed that the details the Code contains with regards to the Luce Bay SAC minimises the risks of vessels, particularly from outwith the Solway, inadvertently fishing the designated conservation area.
- A voluntary closure was imposed by the WCRIFG on Loch Sunart from the 1 October until midnight on the 31 October. The voluntary closure is a repetition of the position taken in 2017 and designed to ensure that large numbers of scallop vessels do not target the area due to its opening a month earlier than other west coast waters.
MRAG Consultants will begin developing a scallop management and conservation strategy with WCRIFG members using outreach support and the work will be concluded in the early New Year. An initial teleconference between the consultants and WCRIFG Chair took place in August while more detailed contact with members will be organised by the consultants later in the year.
- Two separate cockle projects are being developed in the Solway. Outreach support has been obtained to develop an industry led pilot study to explore the potential of managing an area sustainably by hand gathering. Another development being done in partnership with the Dumfries & Galloway FLAG and University of the South of Scotland is exploring the potential viability of relaying cockles in an area of the Solway. The relaying project will be subject to the successful acquisition of funding. Though being conducted separately if the the two cockle projects progress, they will complement each other.
- In the Clyde, a scallop study is being developed under the auspices of the RIFG in partnership with the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership and University of Strathclyde. Subject to acquiring funding, the project is aimed at improving historical and current knowledge of scallop stocks in order to inform future sustainable management. A further proposal for outreach support to explore measures for a sustainable scallop management strategy in Argyllshire waters is currently under development by the WCRIFG.
Since the May meeting, Marine Scotland announced that it will support a crab project west of Mull and this is expected to begin in October 2018. The project will run for two years and, led by inshore fishing representatives, will explore stock management and sustainability within a local area. The project will be complemented by crab tagging and fishermen who will participate in the tagging in west coast waters have been given demonstrations in Oban and Craignure on how to undertake the measures. Crab tagging (4MB file) is ongoing in Orkney waters and the west coast work seeks to build upon this.
At the meeting of the management committee on 8 May the first annual review of the Fisheries Management Plan was agreed. A number of aims have been addressed or are currently under development. The meeting was also presented with a paper from RSSLA on a Strategy for the sustainable development of north-west Highland coastal fisheries and associated dependent communities. Members were invited to comment on the paper post the meeting.
The WCRIFG Solway Subcommittee met in January at Cree Bridge, Newton Stewart mainly to hear proposals by the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) for fisheries management in the Solway Firth.
The meeting was well attended and represented by all sectors of the inshore industry including processing. The meeting concluded that current fisheries management arrangements in the Solway as undertaken via the RIFG are adequate and nothing further is required. Solway based commercial fishermen work well together as evidenced by the Code of Conduct and by projects presently being developed with respect to cockles.
The meeting was updated on developments with regards to planned cockle fishery projects.