Date lodged: 15 December 2017
To ask the Scottish Government whether commercial fishing for sand eel takes place within the Scottish zone, and whether it has made an assessment of the impact of any such fishing on sand eel-dependent predators, including breeding seabirds.
Answered by: Fergus Ewing 9 January 2018
Commercial fishing for sandeel does take place within the Scottish zone, although only a small (< 5000 tonnes) monitoring fishery is permitted within the North east UK sandeel closure that was imposed in 2000, in response to advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) following concern about fishing impacts on marine predators such as seabirds. The closure covers almost all of the foraging range of sandeel reliant seabirds during their breeding season. Landings outside the closed area within Scottish waters have tended to be low in recent years with ICES only advising on a precautionary Total Catch Allowance (TAC). However, ICES did advise on a TAC in 2017, although information on landings for this year will not be available until February 2018.
Marine Scotland Science has worked with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to consider the effect of the fishery on the biomass of sandeels taken by seabirds, fish and the fishery. However, it is unlikely that the fishery had any significant effect on breeding seabirds since the North east UK closure was put in place, and fishing also ceased at coastal sandeel grounds around Shetland in the late 2000s.