Action to safeguard important
East Coast seabird colonies and fish stocks from possible damage from
industrial fishing for sandeels is expected to be agreed this week,
Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley said earlier.
A closed area in the sensitive
fishing grounds off the Firth of Forth and the Grampian Coast - feeding
ground for many cliff-nesting coastal birds in the estuary - is to
be established from next year. These grounds have been fished by Danish
industrial fishing boats in recent years. The area - including the
Isle of May and Wee Bankie fishing grounds - will be closed to sandeel
fishing from April to August. This is the period that the coastal
birds - including puffin, kittiwake and gannet - use the sandeels
to feed their chicks.
Agreement to the closed area
is expected to come at the Fisheries Council in Brussels on Thursday
and Friday and follows intensive discussions with Denmark, whose vessels
comprise the majority of the industrial fishing fleet. It is based
on precautionary advice from the International Council for the Exploration
of the Seas (ICES).
Mr Morley visited the area at the invitation of the Scottish Fisheries
Minister John Home Robertson. Mr Home Robertson said: "Elliot Morley
has been working to achieve better controls over this industrial fishery
for several years, and the negotiations are now coming to a successful
conclusion. The Scottish Executive and MAFF are working together to
protect the marine environment in the best interests of fishermen
and conservationists. I am delighted that we are making this announcement
in East Lothian."
Mr Morley said: "We are
committed to securing sustainable management of industrial fishing
and has already succeeded in gaining an annual limit to sandeel catches
in the North Sea. The east coast plays host to some of the UK's most
important bird habitats. Early indications show there may be an important
knock-on effect from industrial fishing to sea bird breeding success
and this closed area will be an important test of that. We can only
move forward on the basis of good science as we fully understand that
fishermen's jobs and livelihoods in Denmark depend on this fishery.
I want to pay tribute to my Danish counterpart who has looked at the
scientistic reports carefully and share our concerns about sustainability.
When we have had a chance to see the results from this closure
we will be in a good position to decide whether it would be right
to press for action to safeguard others areas, for example, in the
areas off the Yorkshire coast."