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Updated: 2 hours 19 min ago

Scottish crab and lobster management improvements from May

Fri, 2024-05-03 08:56


From 12th May 2024, selected interim measures will be implemented in Scotland including:


  • prohibition on landing of egg-bearing crab and lobster into Scotland
  • controls on creel fishing vessels of more than 12 meters overall with a track record of landing more than 200 tonnes of crab and / or lobster in any 12 month period since 2020


Scottish inshore fisheries are vital to our economy and rural communities, but our science shows crab and lobster stocks are under pressure from overfishing in many areas.


The Scottish Government are aware that concerns over the health of these stocks are shared by many of our fishers and localised, stakeholder-driven initiatives have focussed on addressing declining catch rates for crab and lobster.


Earlier this year, working with the Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) and Fisheries Management and Conservation (FMAC) Inshore Fisheries Subgroup, we began engaging with hundreds of fishermen and representatives to address these challenges head-on and formalise solutions. Central to this approach is collaborating with industry on how we might use short-term interim measures to improve the health of shellfish stocks and overall sustainability of our inshore fishing industry from May 2024.


These interim measures are part of an overarching improvement roadmap to inshore fisheries management in Scotland which also includes:


  • updating our stock assessment data this year, considering other indicators of stock health for crab and lobster, as well as improving our crab and lobster sampling programme
  • consulting on a broad package of inshore fisheries management measures later in 2024
  • progressing related key transformational projects such as inshore vessel tracking for the under 12 metre fleet


We want to continue the co-management approach demonstrated by our development of interim measures. This includes government, industry, academia and others coming together to help shape fisheries management policy that recognises the complex variations and interlinkages in Scotland’s inshore fisheries.


Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, said:


“It’s in all of our interest to alleviate pressure on our shellfish stocks and improve the science base to help ensure sustainability for Scotland’s most prominent inshore fisheries.


“Decisive action and co-management will help aid Scotland’s transition to a more agile and responsive management system.


“Only by engaging with all of industry, and listening carefully to people’s unique ideas and expertise, will we create solutions and policies that work for businesses, the wider sector and, importantly, the marine environment.”


The full detail of the license condition on the short-term improvements will be published on the Scottish Government website on Friday 10 May 2024.




  • Scotland’s inshore fisheries are defined as extending out to 12 nautical miles
  • around 80% of Scotland’s circa 2,000 registered fishing vessels operate in these waters
  • they are typically small, family businesses, comprising a mix of creelers, Nephrops trawlers, hand-liners, scallop dredgers and divers
  • the 2017 Inshore Fisheries Pilots Initiative saw projects implemented in the Outer Hebrides and Mull. Both of these used additional management measures to address diminishing catch returns and competition for space
  • our RIFG network has overseen development of various other initiatives including a suite of voluntary static gear controls in the Firth of Clyde
  • the latest Marine Directorate Stock Assessment Report for 2016–2019 (published in 2023) highlights many stakeholders’ views on the health of shellfish stocks

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Targeted protection for critically endangered flapper skate proves effective

Thu, 2024-05-02 16:57

Over a third of elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fish such as sharks, rays and skates) are categorised as endangered or critically endangered, making them amongst the most threatened marine animals. This includes Dipturus intermedius which is more commonly known as the flapper skate. The decline in flapper skate over the last century is mainly the result of historical overfishing. With their slow body growth, late maturity and an 18-month egg development period, flapper skate are particularly vulnerable to the effects of fishing. Often, individuals were caught before reaching maturity and as a result did not contribute to the next generation, creating the historical decline.

The Loch Sunart to Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA) was established in 2014 with fisheries measures, such as fisheries closures and fishing gear restrictions, introduced in 2016. This area is thought to act as an important refuge for flapper skate; being the focus of a joint tagging and survey effort conducted by the Scottish Government’s Marine Directorate, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and NatureScot. These evidence-informed MPAs are designated marine spaces which in some instances ban or restrict specific fishing activities to conserve marine resources and ecosystems, supporting climate change adaption and maintaining biodiversity.


The current study looked at how MPAs can help protect flapper skate. To do so, it used participatory science data collected by the angling community from two sites in the MPA to support the research. Here, participants reported sightings of skate (identified by either artificial tags or photo-identification based on natural markings) logged the location found and noted if they were new to the study or had been found previously in the MPA. From the data, key indicators relating to site based protection, such as survival, residency and movement within and out of the MPA, and resident population size could be determined.

The study showed a substantial increase in numbers recorded within the two sites within the MPA:

  • resident population size increased from 403 to 848 individuals at the Firth of Lorn site between 2016 and 2019
  • resident population size increased from 355 to 524 at the Sound of Jura site between 2018 and 2019

When compared to the relative stability estimated for the wider west of Scotland area, this observed increase corresponded to an encouraging rise in the number of juvenile flapper skate. Evidence also showed that individuals were very limited in their movement between the sites within the MPA and that there was little overspill between the MPA and wider area, both observations serving to highlight the importance of the current MPA.

This study confirms that when a species shows certain behaviours within an area, remaining loyal to a site for part or all of its life-cycle, targeted measures to reduce fishing pressures, such as MPAs, can offer that vital protection.

This study provides:

  • an increased understanding of flapper skate distribution, movement, growth and population dynamics
  • evidence that the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA is effective at enhancing local flapper skate populations
  • evidence that wider conservation benefits may be realised through the implementation of a network of MPAs

Find out more with the recently published Spatial management measures benefit the critically endangered flapper skate, Dipturus intermedius.

More reading

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Marine Fund Scotland: North East marine projects net £5m

Mon, 2024-04-15 14:01

The Scottish Government recently opened its fourth year of the £14m Marine Fund Scotland for 2024-25.


Applications are welcome until Thursday 9 May 2024 from a wide range of eligible individuals, businesses, organisations and communities to deliver projects which contribute to an innovative and sustainable marine economy.

More than a third (33) of the 91 projects awarded funding in 2023-24 were businesses in the North East of Scotland, totalling £4.8m in grants. On an individual basis, these ranged from around £6k to £1.16m.


Fraserburgh Harbour benefitted from grants to make harbour improvements, including around £1.16m for North breakwater structural repairs and more than £87k on a decarbonising clean up using an all-electric boat and marine litter prevention campaign.

Pamela Neri, Harbour Development Manager for Fraserburgh Harbour said:


“We are greatly appreciative of the funding assistance from the Scottish Government, which has provided current infrastructure and future environmental enhancements to the harbour.


“Together with the community we have been working with local schools to educate on the challenge of marine litter, bringing the issue to the wider public and addressing how we tackle it together.”


Robert Gordon University secured around £360k for a research and innovation project to develop biotoxin testing for shellfish.

Robert Gordon University (RGU) Applied Microbiology Professor, Christine Edwards said:


“Making sure our shellfish is safe to eat is a legal responsibility for all food business in Europe.


“Unlike some other harmful bacteria and viruses which can cause food poisoning, biotoxins are largely resistant to heat so will not be removed through cooking. That’s why testing for biotoxins in Scottish shellfish, enjoyed at home and across the globe, is paramount to make sure product containing unsafe levels is not placed on the market.


“CyanoSol research group which includes colleagues from RGU, Scottish Biologics Facility at University of Aberdeen and Lateral DX Ltd continue to work closely with industry partners to develop robust solutions to new field tests for diarrhetic shellfish poison toxins.”


In Aberdeenshire, Trinity Seafoods (formerly Peterhead Whitefish Processors) received more than £360k for the purchase and installation of a white fish processing line. This automated facility provides a solution to the growing problem of manually handling smaller sizes of whitefish species, which is a time consuming and costly process. This will reduce waste and increase utilisation of this important blue food resource.

 Richard Duthie, Trinity Seafoods Director, said:


“It is great to see the Scottish seafood sector collaborating to create this new venture that will benefit fishermen and processers, and ensure best use is made out of sustainably caught whitefish.


“Not only will the new company and equipment offer direct benefits for the fishing and processing sectors, it will boost many support businesses in the supply chain.”


As well as seafood processing, marine research and innovation, and harbour improvements, other projects supported in the North East last year included fishing vessels, young fishers, commercial fishing and aquaculture. North East locations range from Aberdeenshire and Moray to Aberdeen and Angus.


Full list of the beneficiaries for 2023-24.

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Faroe fisheries agreement delivers for Scotland’s fishing industry

Thu, 2024-03-14 11:00

Bilateral fisheries negotiations with the Faroe Islands, one of Scotland’s closest fishing neighbours, have now concluded for 2024. These agreements set out exchanges of fishing opportunities of quotas and access.

The UK/Faroe agreement sets out quota exchanges which will allow UK vessels to fish key species in Faroese waters. This includes quotas for cod, haddock, and saithe at similar levels to the 2023 agreement in exchange for stocks including Greenland halibut, North Sea haddock and Western blue ling.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon said:

I am pleased to confirm that an agreement was reached between the UK and the Faroe Islands on 1 March. This was the final in a suite of negotiations which have cumulatively provided over £600 million of fishing opportunities to Scottish fishers in 2024.

The Scottish Government has been fully involved in the negotiations, with these talks highlighted as a key priority by many in our industry. This deal sees exchanges of quota and access for Scottish vessels into Faroese waters for species such as cod, haddock and saithe in 2024.

The outcomes will provide additional opportunities and flexibility, enabling our larger whitefish vessels to divert their effort into Faroese waters, in turn putting less pressure on stocks in Scottish waters. This deal also provides a platform to continue to build on our already strong relationship with the Faroe Islands as we seek to manage our fish stocks sustainably.


The UK signed Framework Agreements on Fisheries in 2020 with the Faroe Islands. Bilateral exchanges of opportunities were also agreed in 2022 and 2023.

Through the UK/Faroe agreement, Scottish vessels will be able to fish key whitefish stocks including cod, haddock, and saithe in Faroese waters. The UK has exchanged out quotas including Greenland halibut, haddock, blue ling, tusk and ling.

The UK/Faroe Agreed Record is published on the Scottish Government website.


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Sixth annual ScotMER symposium draws record attendees

Fri, 2024-03-08 11:44

The ScotMER programme recently held its sixth annual symposium attracting over 1,000 registered attendees from 30 different countries. 

The symposium took place online over three days and showcased the breadth of active research currently being undertaken by the programme. Attendees heard updates from each of the seven ScotMER receptor groups (described below), as well as the ECOWind and OWEC Research Programmes.  

For anybody that missed it, all the talks are now available on the Marine Directorate YouTube Channel and more information about the ScotMER programme itself is below.  


The Scottish Marine Energy Research Programme (ScotMER) is a Scottish Government initiative that identifies and addresses key evidence needs to help inform licensing, consenting and planning decisions concerning offshore renewable developments.  

The Scottish Government has committed to investing up to £3.2 million per year until 2026/27 into research that will be delivered through the ScotMER programme, to improve the scientific evidence base that is key to delivering ScotWind. 

ScotMER supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to Net Zero by 2045 and provides evidence for the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy and the National Marine Plan. Evidence produced by ScotMER helps to deliver towards:  

Our Blue Economy Vision for Scotland  

Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan 2018-2032 

Draft Scottish Biodiversity strategy to 2045: tackling the nature emergency 

Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan 

ScotMER develops the evidence base for these plans through three areas: 

Receptor Groups  

The ScotMER programme has seven receptor groups shown in the image below. Each receptor has a dedicated group of technical experts who specialise in a specific part of the marine ecosystem. Members consist of a range of external and internal stakeholders from across government (marine science, planning and licensing), statutory nature conservation bodies (e.g. NatureScot), academia, industry (developers via Scottish Renewables developer representatives, and representatives from the fishing industry), as well as environmental non-governmental organisations (eNGOs). 

The ScotMER receptor groups are listed below: 

The image shows the seven receptor groups. At the top is diadromous fish wirth an orange banner and a picture of fish, the next is marine mammals in light blue with a picture of a dolphin, the next is a picture of a bank note with the queen in purple, the next is physical processes in grey with a picture of equipment, then benthic in light grey with a picture of the seabed, then fish and fisheries in dark blue with a picture of a fishing boat and net, then ornithology in brown with a picture of two gannets on a rock. These are all in a circle with a map in the middle.



Research ideas proposed by the receptor groups are reviewed internally by the Scottish Government,  then developed into project ideas. These are prioritised for progression based on current evidence needs by the projects board, a collection of key internal and external stakeholders, before presenting to ministers for approval. 

In the last year the ScotMER programme has published seven project outputs on the Scottish Government website. The programme currently has fourteen active research projects, and a series of new projects in planning.  


The ScotMER Programme actively communicates the project outputs to key decision makers across Scottish Government (marine licensing, consenting, planning and policy colleagues), as well as external stakeholders such as NatureScot, industry (developers and fishing), the academic community, and environmental non-governmental organisations.  

Along with publishing project outputs, the programme has presented at conferences such as All Energy and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) Annual Science Meeting.  We also engage with external stakeholders through broader engagement and collaboration with other research programmes such as the Offshore Renewable Joint Industry Programme (ORJIP). This ensures the research interests of ScotMER are aligned with other work ongoing in the marine renewable energy sector and avoids duplication of effort.  




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Marine Fund Scotland case study: Seafood in Schools

Wed, 2024-03-06 10:18

A part of the 2022-23 Marine Fund Scotland, Scottish Government awarded £40k to Seafood Scotland’s ‘Seafood in Schools’ scheme. This educational initiative teaches school pupils about the health benefits of seafood, as well as providing an insight into the range of careers available across the marine supply chain.

Seafood Scotland Chief Executive Officer, Donna Fordyce shares more:

“Engaging with school children and their influencers is vital for our sector. It helps us inform them not only how tasty our seafood is, but also of the nutritional value of eating seafood. That it’s versatile and economical to cook, and how vital and varied this sector is in terms of the species you can find around Scotland.

“We realised the importance of this, not only to ensure young people are eating seafood, but at a time when we’re seeing huge skills shortages across the industry – it’s imperative that we educate young people on the opportunities available to them within the seafood sector.

“Following a successful pilot scheme with primary schools in the northeast, Marine Fund Scotland provided funding to support this initiative to roll out the workshops across central Scotland.

“The initial trial programme had consisted of five workshops in Peterhead and Fraserburgh primary schools, tapping into an area that’s at the heart of our seafood sector. The success of these and the funding allowed for a further series of 31 workshops across the central belt, reaching primary 4, 5 and 6 pupils.

“The workshops were dynamic and fun including a short presentation on seafood – what species there are, the nutritional benefits, how sustainable the sector is and why it’s important to our local and national economies. This was followed by interactive games and a cookery workshop where the children got to sample salmon, whitefish, and mackerel dishes. This proved a huge hit with the children and teachers – some of them tasting these fish for the first time.

“As a takeaway to the workshops, all pupils were given recipe cards on the dishes they tried, along with some tins of mackerel, rice or noodles and stationary items. This meant the children could recreate the dishes at home and talk to their parents about what they’d learnt that day.

“We are very grateful to the Scottish seafood sector for supporting this initiative and supplying free products for us to use in schools.

“The project surpassed expectations, with over 800 pupils taking part (our target had been 500), 16 schools hosting us, four more than our target of 12, and following a full evaluation amongst teachers and pupils, the feedback was 100% positive.

The results showed 58% of pupils would want to eat more seafood, 83% tried seafood they hadn’t tasted before and 84% said they learnt something new about seafood.

“As the next stage of the initiative, we’re looking to target secondary school children, specifically Senior 2 pupils who are about to choose their subjects to take to exam level. We’re currently setting up pilot workshops in Fraserburgh and Peterhead with similar activity to the primary workshops, but with more of a focus on the vocational opportunities there are across the sector.  As part of our informative session, we’re talking through a ‘sea to plate’ journey across the seafood sector, highlighting the breadth of jobs needed to bring fish to the dinner plate.

“The hope is that following these workshops, more funding is available to expand the secondary schools’ workshops into more areas to help us encourage school leavers to find work in the sector and continue to build on our vital industry.”

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