The Isle of Man fisheries authorities have recently revised their king scallop fishing regualtions in order to maintain a sustainable fishery.
However, Scottish fishermen mainly from ports in Galloway have complained bitterly that the the new catch recording arrangements are unreasonable. There are over twenty vessels from Northern Ireland ports that hold king scallop licences but they are less affected by the regulation change.
Scottish Fishery Minister Fergus Ewing has condemned the IOM scheme as unrealistic and has threatened legal action to force the IOM government into arbitration.
However, a spokesperson for IOM fisheries department said: “The Isle of Man Government has announced that it will be varying the conditions of its licence for vessels fishing for king scallops in its territorial waters.
“From 15 January 2018, all vessels licensed to fish for king scallops in Manx waters will be required to report daily at an Isle of Man port for catch inspection. Visiting vessels have the option of not reporting, provided any fishing activity within any one fishing trip is confined to Manx waters.
“The change to the licence comes after concerns were raised regarding the accuracy of catch reporting. The changes were delayed by one week to allow further negotiations with Scottish Government.
“The king scallop industry is worth £12 million to the Island’s economy. It is in the interest of all who fish Manx waters, and rely on them for an income, to ensure the long-term sustainability of king scallop stocks.”
Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, Geoffrey Boot, MHK said: ‘The Isle of Man is committed to preventing the decline of its king scallop stock – and it will take all appropriate action to ensure that reporting of catches is accurate. We have made the decision to strengthen our enforcement as it was clear that under-reporting was going on.
“We are currently investigating a number of cases and expect to suspend the Fishing Licence of any skipper who is suspected of under-reporting their catch. We will continue to monitor the stock levels in close liaison with the Scallop Management Board and will not hesitate to prosecute any breach of the rules in place to protect our stocks.
“I would like to thank Marine Scotland for its cooperation and support over the past week. We have noted the concerns that were raised by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing and have modified arrangements so that vessels can return to their home ports – the catch will be reported electronically.
“We will not tolerate damaging the future sustainability of our fishing grounds and believe that the steps we have taken will help protect them.“
Disappointment with Scottish Government’s stance on fishery protection measures.
A spokesperson for the Isle of Man Government said: “The Isle of Man government is disappointed with the Scottish Government’s statement that it could invoke the dispute resolution process in response to new enforcement initiatives to protect the Island’s king scallop fishery.
“The measures, due to take effect on Monday 15 January 2018 – which cover both British and Manx vessels – are urgently required to preserve declining stocks. Manx officials have strong indications from catch records that some boats are taking more fish from Isle of Man waters than they are entitled to.
“Further, the Isle of Man Government is disappointed that the Scottish Government has not taken into account recent negotiations which have resulted in a change to the original proposals. An amendment allows vessels whose catch has only been taken from Manx waters to return to their home port, avoiding the need to visit Manx ports daily.
“The Isle of Man Government does not believe it has breached the terms of the Fisheries Management Agreement (FMA) and has taken these steps to prevent illegal scallop fishing. It will though continue to engage in dialogue with FMA partners to further assess the impact and continue to try and identify an alternative, effective solution.”