A new research project into marine animal entanglements in Scottish waters has been launched.
The first of its kind in Europe, the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) brings together fishing industry representatives, researchers and conservation and welfare charities to assess the scale and impact of the problem.
By engaging directly with the fishing industry, SEA partners hope to raise awareness of entanglements among fishermen and other marine users, to better understand the extent of entanglements and to encourage better reporting of these incidents.
Capturing fishermen’s knowledge, experience and perceptions of entanglements will lead to a better understanding of the socio-economic impact of these events on the Scottish fishing fleet, and create opportunities for fishermen to suggest and discuss best practice to this problem.
For those interested, there will also be the option to become directly involved in entanglement research and disentanglement efforts, and learn from other fisher-led entanglement mitigation work from elsewhere in the world.
SEA is a partnership between the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) – part of Scotland’s Rural College, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT), and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), and is funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Over the next 12 months, SEA project co-ordinator Ellie MacLennan, from SMASS, will be visiting piers and harbours around the coast looking for as much input from the fishing community as possible, with creel fishers being asked to participate in short, informal and anonymous interviews.
Ellie said: “Marine animal entanglement in all types of fishing gear is a global problem that poses a threat to marine life and fishers wherever the two overlap. Here in Scotland, our inshore waters not only provide world-class fishing grounds for creel and trawl fishers, but also habitat for a diverse array of large marine animals including whales, basking sharks and turtles.
“Unfortunately these animals sometimes become entangled in fishing gear and the consequences of these interactions can have serious welfare, conservation and economic implications. Becoming entangled in fishing gear can lead to the animal drowning, or, where the animal remains entangled over time, its ability to swim, feed, or reproduce. These incidents can be both distressing for fishers encountering them and potentially dangerous where live animals are involved. The financial cost to fishermen through damaged or lost gear can also be significant, particularly for those already operating to tight financial margins.”
She added: “Members of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, and the industry as a whole, do not want to see harm coming to marine life as a result of their work. SCFF has welcomed this project and hope that it will help to ensure that any risks to whales, dolphin and other marine life can be minimised while fishermen continue to make their living from the waters they share with these animals.
“No-one is more knowledgeable on this issue or better placed to address entanglements than the fishermen themselves, who SEA partners regard as stewards of the marine environment. We are eager to take fishermen’s advice on how best we can work together to understand and reduce this threat in the future, for the benefit of all affected.”
The project partners realise that marine animal entanglement is a complex issue and guarantee that any information shared will be treated sensitively, positively and anonymously.
If you are a creel fisher who would be willing to contribute to this work, please contact Ellie on 01463 246048 or 07393 798 153, or email email@example.com.