Scotland's only No Take Zone being used as 'weapon', fishermen claim

Scotland's only no-fishing zone has been at the centre of debate as government plans more protected marine areas.

Lamlash Bay: Fishermen claim No Take Zone evidence over protected marine area does not add up

Fishermen on Arran claim Scotland’s only no fishing area is being used as a weapon against them. 

The No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay was established in 2008 after more than a decade of campaigning by locals. 

Supporters argue it has allowed sea life to recover after banning fishing in a small area. 

The Scottish Government wants to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas which would prevent all fishing and dredging in 10% of Scotland’s coastal waters. 

However local fishermen on Arran have told STV News the evidence used to show the success of the zone does not add up. 

A study led by the University of York found that lobsters were now over four times more abundant than adjacent areas and king scallop density was four times higher than in 2013. 

Iain Cusick has fished off the Arran coast for almost a decade. 

He has been involved in the research into the impact of the no take zone on stocks. 

He said: “We are now getting made out to be the bad guys, the root of all evil. This actually is getting used as a weapon against us now. 

“The evidence doesn’t seem to stack up, I’m afraid to say, because there isn’t a huge difference between the No Take Zone fishery and outside the fishery.  

“Two years ago, out of all the 15 creels in the No Take Zone we actually found not one lobster one time. There are so many varying factors in fishing.  

“You can’t just pin it down and put it in straight lines and boxes, it’s just not like that.” 

Lewis Kennedy dives for scallops off the Arran coast. 

He is angry the zone is being used to make the case for HPMAs.

He said: “When it was first launched, I thought it was quite a good thing, but now I’m starting to think against it as they are using it as a poster boy for HPMAs.  

“I was told I had nothing to worry about with HPMAs and now I hear they are pushing for them to be around here and that is going to completely ruin me.  

“I have just bought a boat for myself and if this happens then I’m done.” 

Fishermen on Arran feel marginalised in a debate that will have a big impact on their future. 

However, campaigners insist the science behind the claims is independent and accurate. 

Howard Wood is co-founder of COAST, the Community of Arran Seabed Trust. 

He told STV News, “The species abundance is roughly double. Scallops and lobsters are both roughly 4 times as numerous.” 

“The No Take Zone is very small.  

“HPMAs will allow eco-systems to properly function and recover, but they have to be put in very carefully. If you don’t put them in carefully you are very liable to have everybody against them.  

“They need care, and they need communities. They need fishermen.  

“They need everybody that is involved in the sea to sit round and find the most appropriate places for them.” 

COAST recently launched a research boat funded largely by the Scottish Government. 

It argues the zone and surrounding Marine Protected Area benefit fishermen. 

Education Manager at COAST Sophie Plant said: “The vast majority of the south Arran MPA you can still creel and hand dive and line fish, so it means actually that those lower impact fishermen have places that they can use that are completely uninhibited. 

“They are not going to get their gear towed by the scallop dredgers and the prawn trawlers.” 

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