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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-15640: Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 26 March 2018

To ask the Scottish Government whether it has prohibited fishing for razor clams by hydraulic dredge as part of the razor clam electrofishing trial and, if so, for what reason.

Answered by: Fergus Ewing 26 April 2018

The Razor Clams (Prohibition on Fishing and Landing) (Scotland) Order 2017 prohibits all fishing for and landing of razor clams within the Scottish zone, except in relation to any operations that are conducted for the purpose of scientific investigation authorised by the Scottish Ministers and in relation to fishing for razor clams by hand in tidal waters, up to a maximum of 30 clams per person per day. The Order applies to all forms of fishing, including by hydraulic dredge. The Order is made under powers in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967, and not under EU law.

Further to the Order, a controlled trial of electro-fishing for razor clams commenced on 1 February 2018. The scientific trial is being conducted in terms of Article 43 of EC Regulation 850/98. The purpose of this trial is to undertake a commercial level test of this fishing method, to confirm that it can be undertaken safely and sustainably, and to gather information about impacts upon the benthic environment It is considered necessary to prohibit all commercial fishing outside the trial in light of a risk, which is considered to be a high risk, that any such fishing would be undertaken with the use of electricity. Fishing with electricity, while illegal under EU law, has in the recent past been the predominant method used in the commercial fishing for razor clams.

It is not planned as part of the trial to undertake a comparison, through an economic and environmental assessment, of hydraulic dredging and electrofishing methods, and an economic and environmental assessment of hydraulic dredging for razor clams was not conducted prior to setting the terms of the razor clam electrofishing trial. Scientific research has already shown that the electro-fishing method is highly selective, produces high quality produce with zero bycatch and is less intrusive than dredging.

Since August 2014 Scottish vessels have been required to apply for a specific additional permit to fish for razor clams, including by hydraulic dredge. Marine Scotland is not aware of any fishing vessel fishing for razor clams by using hydraulic dredges in Scottish inshore waters in the twelve month period prior to the Razor Clams (Prohibition on Fishing and Landing) (Scotland) Order 2017 coming into force.

There has been extensive consultation about razor clam fishing in Scotland. Following the Scottish Government’s response to a 2016 public consultation about the regulated use of electricity in the fishery, consultation meetings were held with fishermen, businesses, non-governmental organisations and other interested parties to discuss the development of the electro-fishery trial.