In December 2015, the Cabinet Secretary announced recommendations on dealing with gear conflict. These included looking at good practice and possible legislative changes to the marking of static gear inside 12 nautical miles.
Marine Scotland organised an online dialogue, and held discussions with three industry working groups formed specifically to consider options on this topic. Although the majority of organisations, associations and individuals who took part in the working groups supported the proposals, some parties did express concerns about restricting how gear could be marked.
These proposals were therefore consulted on from November 2016 to February 2017, in order to give all fishermen the opportunity to consider and comment on them.
Whilst overall there was support for the proposals as set out in that consultation, it was clear that in some circumstances the proposals, if adhered to, might cause gear loss in adverse weather or during strong tides.
Clearly it would be unreasonable to legislate and place fishermen in a position of having to choose between complying with legislation and risk losing gear, and breaching regulations to avoid loss.
Marine Scotland therefore anounced it would publish guidelines which set out best practice for marking static gear. The guidelines strike a balance to ensure gear is visible and reduce the risk of accidental gear conflict. However, a number of fishermen may wish to mark gear at variance to the guidelines due to local conditions, either at certain times of the year or in particular geographic positions.
It is clear that some fishermen are marking gear using inappropriate equipment that result in poor visibility and/or poorly secured marking equipment. Marine Scotland will therefore introduce regulations in spring 2019 which will ban the use of equipment not manufactured for the purpose of marking fishing gear. This will outlaw the use of objects such as plastic milk cartons and netted footballs.
Marine Scotland will also introduce regulations requiring all unlicensed fishermen to mark their gear with a unique reference number which will be issued on request by the local Marine Scotland Fishery Office. The regulations will also require licensed fishermen to mark their gear with the PLN. We intend that both these measures will come into force in 2019 allowing industry time to take appropriate measures.