Following on from my previous article of the South Arran MPA and more specifically the No Creel Zone (NCZ) off Kildonan it has become clear to me that there are some who disregard the existence of the NCZ as it is an inconvenience to them and when asked about their creeling activities reply with obfuscation and bluster. Such a response to designed to project an air of authority and knowledge of the subject which, I assume, is hoped will avoid the need for any further explanation or discussion. This is a tactic that may have worked in the pre-internet age but a quick and easy bit of online research lays bare the lie.
There are usually two lines of argument: firstly the local of the NCZ is so vague that no-one can know where it starts and finishes; the secondly that exemption by local creelers is gained in the NCZ by virtue of the possession of a ‘hobby licence’. The hobby licence is designed, as the argument goes, to allow small scale ‘for the pot’ recreational fisherman access to the NCZ which would otherwise be denied them as a consequence of the designation.
The reality however, is that neither argument is true.
The limits of the NCZ could not be clearer for those who actually care to look. The NCZ is a rectangle which is precisely delineated by Marine Scotland in the ‘Simple guide to fisheries management measures in Marine Protected Areas’ – pages 38-39 to be exact (see here). No debate nothing grey.
Turning to the ‘hobby licence’ which at first sounds credible is actually spurious. To debunk the myth straight away there is no such thing as a ‘hobby licence’ – the very term convening some level of official authority having been granted to do something following an appropriate application procedure. This is not correct. However like all good myths the story sounds plausible to the ignorant. I suspect the origins of this myth are to be found in the Scottish Statutory Instrument 2017 No. 57 Sea Fisheries Conservation of Sea Fish – The Shellfish (Restrictions on Taking by Unlicensed Fishing Boats)(Scotland) Order 2017 (see here). On the Scottish Government website there is indeed reference to ‘hobby’ fishermen. This is taken to refer to boats not licensed with the Register of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff and there are specific quotas allowed for such boats – 1 lobster, 10 nephrops, 5 crabs (any species) and 6 scallops and these are catch figures that have been quoted to me by local creelers. On the website there is an acknowledgement of strong anecdotal evidence of hobby fishermen selling their catch but that is a debate for another day. However, and this is a major however, the Shellfish Regulations quoted are the regulations that apply in the Scottish zone of UK waters as set out in the Order and there are specific geographic areas that are subject to other Orders such as the Scottish Statutory Instrument 2015 No. 437 Environmental Protection Marine Management The South Arran Marine Conservation Order 2015 (see here) in which more restrictive conditions apply. Sch 2 Part 4 sets out the co-ordinates for NCZ off Kildonan and Sch 3 sets out the co-ordinates for the Lamlash No Take Zone. These restrictions apply to all – even unlicensed/hobby fishermen and whats more they know it!
So, if you chance to discuss creeling in a NCZ, say off Kildonan, with someone who continues to creel because claims delineation of the NCZ is vague or imprecise or claims to have an hobby licence you can reply with conviction – RUBBISH!.