The WCRIFG Loch Sunart Working Group have agreed that the voluntary closure of Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura should be extended for a further calendar month, from 1 December until 31 December. A possible rollover for a further period subject will be subject to another review.
- A meeting of the Solway Subcommittee on 1 December received an update on the IFG lobster v-notch project with a report expected in the early New Year. The meeting had a presentation from the Dumfries & Galloway FLAG Fisheries Officer on potential ways that EMFF funding might be utilised.
- The meeting of the WCRIFG committee on 7 December considered a draft fisheries management plan, the ongoing voluntary closure of Loch Sunart and potential scallop management in West coast waters. Work groups will meet in the early new year to explore each of these subjects in more detail.
- In early September a workshop/meeting in Inverness was well attended by West Highlands & Skye Subcommittee members. A follow on from an earlier event in July issues relating to the Inner Sound were revisited. The event concluded that a further meeting of fishermen from each sector for whom the Inner Sound is their main fishery try to develop a proposal. A working group convened towards the end of the month and a detailed report of the outcomes of this meeting, together with input from the two mediated workshop events will be produced.
- The WCRIFG Committee also met in Glasgow in September when a key issue discussed was the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA (see draft Meeting Notes). Members expressed concerns about risks to the designated features of the MPA from ingress by large numbers of displaced scallop vessels and concluded that as a precautionary measure a voluntary closure of the fishery should be implemented. The voluntary closure would be for one calendar month with potential rollover for a further month subject to review.
- The WCRIFG responded to SNH consultations in relation to Marine Birds Special Protection Areas in relation to Coll & Tiree and Gigha.
- In October the WCRIFG Loch Sunart Working Group met to review the voluntary closure of Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura that had been imposed since the 1 October. Members agreed to extend the precautionary voluntary closure from 1 November for a further calendar month with a possible further rollover subject to another review.
- WCRIFG responded to the SNH consultation in connection with the Small Isles Conservation MPA.
- The Solway Voluntary Code of Conduct, aimed at reducing gear conflict in Wigtown Bay and Luce Bay, has been agreed for the 2016 -2017 season which begins on the 1 November. In place since 2008 and largely effective in ensuring gear conflict management, this forthcoming season will be the first time that only two areas will be open to scallopers in Luce Bay since the Luce Bay and Sands SPA was classified.
- The first full meeting of the WCRIFG took place on 1 June when the committee structure was formally endorsed. Reviewing exiting IFG management plans as part of the process of producing an updated regional management plan before the end of the year which incorporates all of the inshore waters of the WCRIFG area featured during the meeting. See minutes of meeting.
- The Solway Cockle Fisheries working group met during the summer and industry representatives are exploring opportunities to develop a project proposal.
- A mediated workshop was held in Inverness in July to explore issues including gear conflict and the sustainability of the fishery of the Inner Sound. Comprising a small number of West Highlands & Skye Subcommittee members representing the static and mobile sectors, the event concluded with participants agreeing to speak to their respective wider memberships on the outcomes of discussions. A larger meeting/workshop will be scheduled to explore matters further with the wider subcommittee membership.
- The Mull and Argyll Subcommittee met in April on Mull to explore potential gear conflict issues and proposals for a sustainable fisheries management area West of Mull. The meeting was an outcome of a facilitated workshop held earlier in the year and the matters discussed at the most recent event will be followed up.
- During May the West Highlands and Skye Subcommittee had its inaugural meeting in Achnasheen. The meeting revisited issues such as gear conflict and proposed local sustainable fisheries management in the Inner Sound primarily as the result of the MoD’s plans to extend its BUTEC testing range. The outcome is to hold a workshop with key stakeholders to look in more detail at issues relating to the Inner Sound.
- Also in May a working group comprising Solway Subcommittee members met to examine the potential of establishing an industry led project to explore cockle fish collection in the Solway. The Solway cockle fishery is currently closed to commercial collection though some industry representatives believe that stocks may be recovering. However, research is needed to determine the health of the fishery and to explore potential future sustainable management of cockle stocks before commercial fishing recurs.
- A written response to the SNH Harbour Porpoise Consultation (Inner Hebrides and Minches) was submitted supporting the proposals but seeking derogation to enable both current and planned fisheries activities to occur.
- WCRIFG also responded to Marine Scotland’s consultation on the Minimum & Maximum Landing Sizes of Crab and Lobster. No consensus was obtained on this issue but the response reflected the different geographical views expressed on the issue.