Rage after scallop dredgers wreck rare reef

Flame shell cropped

Flame shells

​Unesco site will take decades to recover

Graham Martin's photo

24th April 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Conservationists have reacted with fury after scallop dredgers wrecked a precious marine habitat.

The fishing boats have done extensive damage to a rare flame shell reef in Loch Carron near Plockton, trashing the seabed through indiscriminate trawling.

Damage is so bad that the site, part of an area given special recognition by Unesco, will take decades to recover.

Iain Turnbull, the National Trust for Scotland’s (NTS) property manager for the Balmacara Estate, which includes parts of Plockton, said: “Scallop dredgers have argued for years that there is no evidence that their activities harm these important reefs. Now there is incontrovertible evidence.

“While I understand that those in the fishing industry must make a living, there has to be a balance.

“By trashing the sea floor like this not only are they destroying important species like the flame shell, but they are also limiting the sustainability of their own industry. It is unforgivably short-sighted.”

Dr Richard Luxmoore, NTS senior nature conservation adviser, said: “Flame shells are one of the most beautiful and delicate of Scotland's marine creatures. They protect their nests under a fragile roof of bits of shell and other material held together with fine byssus threads. Ripping through this with the heavy metal teeth of a scallop dredge is like dropping a bunker-busting bomb on a nursery school. The destruction is just appalling.

“Two years ago the Scottish Government commissioned an economic study of the impacts of fishing in the inshore zone which concluded that the use of trawls and dredges in these waters caused damage that was totally disproportionate to the profits that it brought to a relatively small number of fishermen.

“The clear outcome of this research was that Scotland would be economically far better off it all such damaging fishing methods were banned within 3km of the shore. It is time that the Government took heed of this advice and acts to protect the marine life that is one of Scotland's natural treasures.” 

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "These reports are worrying and will be investigated.

"But it is worth noting that there are already strong measures in place to protect valuable marine habitats around our coastline.

"We work closely with local communities and the inshore fisheries groups to review what, if any, additional protective measures are required."

"We will continue this dialogue as we seek to balance the need for legitimate and responsible fishing activity whilst simultaneously preserving our incredibly diverse marine environment."