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Clyde fishing leaders are asking for public support in the wake of the sudden closure of an expanse of the Firth of Clyde.
The reason for the decision earlier this month by Mairi Gougeon, cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands, was to allow cod to spawn in the area known as the ‘cod box’.
Since the scheme was introduced 20 years ago in partnership with government, scientists and fishing interests, annual permission was given to nephrops (langoustine) trawlers, creels and scallop dredgers to fish the area, given the demonstrably low numbers of cod caught by these boats.
Ms Gougeon’s announcement of a three-month ban between February and April for the next two years has drawn widespread criticism, with fishermen pointing to the fragile nature of their industry and the impact on the businesses and communities they support.
Questions have also been raised about the scientific basis for the ban, though the Scottish Government maintains it was founded on ‘the most up-to-date scientific evidence’.
Fishermen are sceptical, claiming that research in the Clyde stopped many years ago partly due to lack of staff at Marine Scotland. They remain willing and able, they say, to continue supporting this at any time.
What has also galled fishing leaders is that there was no prior discussion before Ms Gougeon made the announcement in parliament.
In a statement, the Scottish Government said: ‘We appreciate this will have a short-term impact on local fishers, but taking action now to try to replenish cod and potentially other stock for the longer term is ultimately beneficial for fishing as well.’
The Clyde Fishermen’s Federation (CFA) has now asked the public to respond to a Scottish Government online questionnaire on the introduction of the ban.
The CFA said: ‘To all who have reached out to offer much-needed support after the sudden Clyde closure announcement – the fishing organisations nationally, the farmers who said a prayer for the fishermen, the press and the public.
‘Please respond to this if you can. It will mean a lot.’
To add your comments, visit yourviews.parliament.scot/recc/the-sea-fish-ssi and complete the form by February 2.