Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation  

Creeling and trawling for Nephrops are not simply alternative methods of harvesting Nephrops in inshore waters. Economically, they are quite separate activities which deliver fundamentally different economic outcomes. What they have in common is that, in Scotland’s inshore waters, they compete for access to the same stock of Nephrops.

Currently, in Scotland we have an economically absurd outcome whereby each tonne of Nephrops caught by trawls in areas fishable by creels is contributing to an unnecessary degradation of the Scottish marine environment and a significant reduction in Scottish output, income, employment and profits, particularly in remote/rural areas. This is a manifestation of ‘market failure’. Regrettably, Marine Scotland, which should be correcting the anomaly of excessive trawling effort, has adopted a laissez-faire approach. This is precisely the wrong response.

At the same time, whilst Marine Scotland eschews area management, across the inshore area, many mobile operators are imposing their own de facto area management with the primary purpose of benefitting themselves at the direct expense of creelers. Creelers have to comply with these creel limits otherwise they face the prospect of their creels being regularly towed away. This is a very costly and inconvenient sanction.

The combination of Marine Scotland “hands off” approach and de facto creel limits imposed by the trawl sector has resulted in trawlers managing to secure 87.7% of the Scottish Nephrops catch.
This level of access to Nephrops stocks is certainly not warranted by the sector’s economic or environmental performance, or indeed any coherent performance indicator.

There is little doubt that exploitation of Scotland’s inshore Nephrops stocks has been driven in a direction which has been completely incompatible with Scotland’s best interest and the Scottish Government’s declared policy objectives. It is clear that Marine Scotland’s current laissez-faire is entirely inappropriate and deeply damaging, particularly to remote areas in Scotland.

In addressing the issue of which sector should have preferential access to Scotland’s inshore Nephrops stocks, the paper considers the question; “which sector will make best economic use of each and every live weight tonne of Nephrops?” It transpires that creeling not only delivers more jobs per tonne it catches, it is economically more efficient (i.e. profitable) to catch a tonne of Nephrops using creels rather than trawling the sea bed.

This is a remarkable result. It means that employment and economic efficiency (as reflected in profitability per tonne) would both be increased by allowing a greater Nephrops tonnage to be caught by creelers. At the same time, this would better facilitate the development of Scotland’s footprint and reputation as an exporter of quality food and drink.

Apparently, Marine Scotland faces no trade-off between economic indicators. By reallocating access to Nephrops in favour of creeling Marine Scotland has the capacity to increase total employment, total household incomes, total profits /economic efficiency and the number of individual fishing businesses in coastal areas. Many of these areas are remote and suffer from a narrow range of economic opportunity.

In addition, and equally remarkably, because each tonne landed by creelers causes less environmental damage, Marine Scotland does not have to contend with trade-offs between economic and environmental performance indicators. It can therefore improve the economy and the marine environment.

This paper further establishes that the optimum allocation of Nephrops stocks requires that, in future, trawlers should not catch a single tonne of Nephrops which otherwise could have been caught by creelers. This implies that creelers should have exclusive access to some inshore areas. Comparing this with the current reality reveals the full extent of market failure.

Ironically, because of market failure and its own past failure to intervene, Marine Scotland now faces a legacy of a highly significant economic and environmental potential just waiting to be released. Moreover, the release of these economic and environmental benefits would not require a public finance commitment of any magnitude.

In order to provide an insight into particular policy proposals, among other things, the study estimated the net gains in key economic performance indicators. This was done in terms of each 1,000 tonnes of Nephrops transferred to the creeling sector. These are presented in the Table below and represent the gains to the creeling sector minus the losses to the trawling sector. They represent the overall benefit to Scotland as a whole.

Table 3.3 Net Gains per 1,000 Tonnes Transferred to Creeling

  Per 1,000 Tonne
Additional Vessels 69
Additional Revenue 6,776,000
Additional FT Jobs 110
Additional Profit 407,000

SCFF takes the view that Marine Scotland should regard the re-balancing of fishing effort in the form of creel only areas as a quite extraordinary one-off opportunity to realise the massive potential of our inshore Nephrop stocks. Currently this potential is being shamefully squandered.

SCFF now calls on Marine Scotland to accept the conclusions of this paper and to work with the Federation to ensure that inshore Nephrops stocks will now be managed in Scotland’s best interests. Specifically, SCFF is seeking Marine Scotland’s support for a target of a fifty per cent share for creelers of the 0-6NM Scottish Nephrops fishery. SCFF believes that this goal can best be achieved:-

  • On the west coast of Scotland through the re-imposition of an 0-3NM mobile gear restriction; and
  • On the east coast of Scotland through a network of mobile gear free zones negotiated at local level with the support and guidance from Marine Scotland.

SCFF estimates that the economic benefits of this policy for the west coast alone would include:

  • Over 450 additional (small) fishing vessels and businesses
  • Over 700 net and new sustainable jobs in fishing
  • Nearly 45m additional annual revenue and over 2.5m annual profits which would flow directly into west coast communities

These figures clearly demonstrate that the national interest supports a substantial reallocation of fishing opportunity for Nephrops in Scotland to the creel sector. The SCFF calls on Marine Scotland to start working with it immediately to make its goal a reality by 2022.

Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation
May 2017.

Open full report in pdf format

Innovation not protectionism key to success of Nephrops fishery (Response to SFF/SCO Study November 2017)

A coalition of Scottish inshore creel fishermen has urged for a more innovative spirit in response to a new trawl sector study on the value of the Scottish prawn fishery. The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) has given the thumbs down to the study funded by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation which attempts to play down on-going creeler-led calls for more equitable access to inshore prawn grounds. SCFF welcome ongoing efforts by the Scottish Government and Seafood Scotland to take forward the implications of its own ‘Misallocation’ report with further industry analysis and an assessment of the supply chain implications.

In response to the SFF/SFO study, Alistair Sinclair, National Coordinator for Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation said:

We are proposing urgent innovation within the prawn fishery that could generate more rural fishing jobs and reduce environmental impacts of the excessive trawling effort in our inshore waters. Creel fishing is a low impact fishery and if given more space to operate, could revitalise our inshore fishery. Currently our whole business model is hindered by outdated and inequitable spatial management.
The trawl sector should not be defensive about this. There are many win-wins to be achieved. Those with foresight within the trawl sector knows the industry needs to adapt to sustainability concerns, and we are presenting a spatial management solution that could lead to better fisheries all-round. Less bottom-trawling could see a return of the whitefish inshore.
The SCFF are encouraged that the Scottish Government, with the expert assistance of Seafood Scotland, are now building on our research to examine supply chain implications before progressing any policy or regulatory intervention.
The SFF report fails to assess the opportunity cost of excessive trawling in inshore waters, nor does it quantify the economic potential of more creeling. We hoped our own Misallocation report would stimulate meaningful debate about how to innovate for the success of our shared Nephrops fishery. Unfortunately, what we’re witnessing is a well-funded trawl lobby employing consultants to produce a glossy, but two dimensional and protectionist study. This protectionism is delaying an important and more rational debate that affects both trawl and creel fishermen in Scotland. The study does nothing to diminish our case; it only serves to strengthen our calls for more equitable access to the fishery.

Full response here: