Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation  

3 Mile Limit - A Case for a Sustainable Fishery

The three mile limit - full proposal, click here
This document is an attempt to inform and promote to fishermen and fisheries managers the fact that reinstatement of the three mile limit is not just possible or plausible, but is presently the best chance we have of preserving and allowing some recovery of our inshore fisheries for the future. Furthermore it is entirely affordable.

The three mile limit was in place for the bulk of the 100 years preceding 1984. Since its removal, almost all the remaining demersal/finfish species, previously commercially exploited within inshore waters, have been reduced to commercial extinction, the bulk of the inshore fleet are now mainly reliant on nephrops and scallop fisheries.

The decline in the inshore fishing fleets working from Scottish west coast ports has been quite dramatic, with many ports now only serving a small fraction of the fishing vessels of just a decade or two ago. The ecosystem, the fisheries and employment opportunities in the inshore waters within 3 miles of land have deteriorated considerably since the opening of those waters to trawling.

The east of Scotland has a significantly different geography and distinct fisheries from those on the west. Much of the east coast static sector is based around crab and lobster fisheries and a more significant percentage of those static fisheries are based further offshore than three miles. It is for those reasons that this document aims to focus on the west coast and many of the options considered herein will not be applicable or appropriate to the east coast inshore fleet.

It is the sincere belief of the authors that it is possible to substantially improve the health of our inshore ecosystem and our inshore fishing industry in a relatively short space of time and with relatively little effort. The improvement could be so substantial as to double the amount of fishermen employed inshore, double the amount of vessels operating inshore and double the revenues generated from the area. Remarkably we think it is possible to do all this without increasing the present catch, and do so with substantially less environmental footprint. Further still the implementation of this proposal would simultaneously reduce the bethnic disturbance, discard and by-catch ratios for those fisheries to practically zero.

The mechanism that may be able to realise those remarkable achievements is the reinstatement of the former three mile limit (or a close variation of it).

Other significant benefits from reinstating the 3 mile limit include the ability to address, solve or mitigate gear conflict between the static and mobile sectors, accommodate the expansion of the creel sector, remodel fishers relationship and interactions with MPA’s, create protection of inshore nursery grounds for vulnerable finfish (amongst other species) and disrupt less of the ecosystem services provided by benthic habitats. It will also become possible to successfully implement other fisheries management measures that cannot be realised in mixed gear Nephrops fisheries (e.g. increasing the MLS of nephrops, returning berried prawns etc.). Most importantly for fishermen it can achieve this whilst maintaining and promoting vibrant diverse and healthy fishing communities.

The primary focus of this document is the inshore west coast Nephrops trawl and creel fisheries, however those fishing grounds and the communities that depend on them are also shared by scallop, dredge and dive fisheries as well as significant crab and lobster fisheries and other smaller scale fisheries interests like commercial angling, whelk and razor fishers. Furthermore there is significant historical evidence that there were once substantial demersal fin fish fisheries along the entirety of the Scottish west coast, it is our belief that they will also be positively affected by the proposal.

The Evidence
There are some who dispute the impacts of mobile trawl and dredge fisheries, and many who consider bottom contact mobile gears as analogous to ploughs on land. Regardless of your position on the nature and impacts of mobile gears, the evidence for some of their long term effects is clearly demonstrated in the historical record.

Again there are some who argue creel fishing could also become unsustainable, we demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to show that, with a well regulated static gear fishery, both the fishermen and the environment would benefit from a transition from mobile to static gears within the 3 mile inshore zone.

When all else is considered, reinstatement of the three mile limit is the only plan on the table which addresses the present decline in the inshore sector and offers the likelihood of long term stability and sustainability for the inshore fisherman. The three mile limit manages to address many of the big, otherwise insurmountable, issues presently facing our environment and our industry, like the commercial extinction of most inshore demersal fish species, and the decline in catch per unit of effort within the remaining nephrops and scallop fisheries.

For full report, please click here or on image below: