- This Commercial Fisheries Technical Report describes the commercial fisheries baseline for the Berwick Bank Wind Farm (hereafter referred to as “the Proposed Development”). The areas of the Proposed Development of relevance to this report are the Proposed Development array area and the Proposed Development export cable corridor.
- For the purposes of this baseline characterisation, commercial fishing is defined as the legitimate capture of finfish and shellfish for sale by licensed fishing vessels.
2. Study Area
- Fisheries data are recorded and collated by The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) statistical rectangles. The commercial fisheries study area has therefore been defined with reference to the ICES rectangles within which the Proposed Development is located. As shown in Figure 2.1 Open ▸ , these are as follows:
- ICES rectangle 41E8: encompasses the Proposed Development array area and part of the Proposed Development export cable corridor; and
- ICES rectangles 41E7 and 40E7: include the inshore section of the Proposed Development export cable corridor.
- The commercial fisheries study area defined has been used to identify fishing activities of relevance in the immediate area of the Proposed Development. Where relevant, data and information have been analysed for wider areas to provide context and describe the wider extent of activity of the fisheries included in the assessment.
3. Data and Information Sources
- A range of sources of data and information have been used to inform the Commercial Fisheries Technical Report (volume 3, appendix 12.1). These are described in Table 3.1 Open ▸ .
- Additional information on the commercial fisheries baseline has been gathered through direct consultation with fisheries stakeholders. Details of the consultations carried out are provided in section 5.
4. Fisheries Management and Restrictions
- Commercial fishing is subject to a wide range of policy and management measures and subsequent controls and regulations at the local, regional and national levels.
- Since the exit of the UK from the European Union (EU) at the end of 2020, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is no longer applicable to UK fisheries. Fishing in the UK is now governed by the Fisheries Act (2020) and agreements with the EU, including with regard to total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas are governed under the EU – UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (24 December 2020).
- The UK government allocates fish quotas between the four UK administrations (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Marine Scotland subsequently allocates Scottish quota to fishermen licensed in Scotland, primarily through fish Producer Organisations (POs). For vessels that are not PO members, quotas are managed directly by Marine Scotland. For the over-10 m fleet, quotas are assigned on the basis of historic rights.
- At the local and regional level, Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) work to improve the management of Scottish inshore fisheries (out to the 6 nm limit). RIFGs are non-statutory bodies established in 2016 to replace the previous Inshore Fishing Groups (IFGs) structure. The RIFG of relevance in the commercial fisheries study area is the NECRIFG. This covers the area between Durness on the north coast down to Burnmouth by the border with England.
4.2. Spatial Restrictions
- A number of spatial restrictions to fishing apply within the commercial fisheries study area. As shown in Figure 4.1 Open ▸ , the following overlap with the Proposed Development:
- fishing for cockles is permanently prohibited within Scottish inshore waters, including in those areas that overlap with the Proposed Development export cable corridor;
- both the Proposed Development export cable corridor and array area overlap with the sandeel fishing prohibition on the east coast of Scotland. This prohibits fishing for sandeel with towed gear with a cod-end mesh size of less than 32 mm; and
- the landing of seabass is prohibited within ICES Division IVb and IVc, (including the commercial fisheries study area) except within the 12 nm limit as by-catch.
4.3. Firth of Forth Bank Complex MPA Management Measures
- As illustrated in Figure 4.2 Open ▸ , the western and south-eastern sections of the Proposed Development array area overlap with the Firth of Forth Banks Complex Marine Protected Area (MPA). In this MPA, a Possible Marine Conservation Order (MCO) which includes fisheries related management measures has been proposed. In the areas identified by the Possible MCO for implementation of fisheries management measures, fishing activity by demersal trawls and scallop dredgers would be restricted/prohibited.
- The Possible MCO management measures are currently undergoing consultation. Therefore, the fisheries management measures associated with it are yet to be finalised and formally implemented and may be subject to change.
5. Consultation to Inform the Baseline
- In addition to the review of publicly available information, the commercial fisheries baseline has been informed through the collection of information from local fishermen active in the commercial fisheries study area.
- An initial consultation meeting was held between the Applicant and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), the NECRIFG, the Under 10 m Association and local Fisheries Industry Representative (FIRs) to discuss the commercial fisheries baseline in the commercial fisheries study area and the key concerns of the fishing industry with regard to the Proposed Development (Consultation meeting, 16 November 2021). During this meeting the limitations of the fisheries data and information that are publicly available were acknowledged, particularly with regard to vessels in the smaller length categories, as these are not currently satellite tracked (i.e. not included in the VMS dataset). To address this data gap, the Applicant had initially proposed to carry out direct face to face consultation with local fishermen and fisheries organisations via the Fisheries Liaison Officer (FLO) using standard questionnaires. The fisheries stakeholders that participated in the meeting on 16 November 2021, however, requested for this consultation to be carried by the local FIRs instead. To facilitate this, the Applicant provided local FIRs with consultation questionnaires for distribution amongst their members.
- Early feedback provided by FIRs indicated that the collection of baseline information from their members via questionnaires was challenging within the timescales required by the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) programme considering the time availability and other work commitments of both FIRs and fishermen. To address this issue, the Applicant offered the assistance of the FLO to the FIRs for the distribution and collection of questionnaires and extended the deadlines for submission of questionnaires to maximise participation.
- Questionnaires were initially distributed to FIRs, SFF and the SWFPA on 9 December 2021 for circulation amongst their members. Consultees were asked to return completed questionnaires by 9 of January 2022. The deadline to submit questionnaires was then subsequently extended to 31 January 2022. Late responses received up to 9 March 2022 have however been given consideration.
- Two of the local FIRs (Dunbar and Eyemouth) noted that their members were not comfortable completing the questionnaires at this early stage. This was due to concerns over the use of the information they provide. These FIRs requested meetings with the Applicant for clarification and further information. Meetings were organised by the Applicant at Dunbar and Eyemouth on 31 January 2022 and 24 February 2022, respectively. Following these meetings, some of the attendees completed and returned questionnaires.
- Some of the fishermen potentially active in areas of the Proposed Development are not represented by local FIRs, particularly nomadic scallop dredgers and visiting squid trawlers. To ensure that these vessels were also covered as part of the consultation process, both the Moray Firth squid and scallop FIRs were contacted by the FLO directly and via the SWFPA in conjunction with the SFF. In addition, at the time the consultation was undertaken there was no local FIR covering the areas of Arbroath and Montrose, therefore consultation with local vessels from these areas was undertaken directly by the FLO.
- Following the consultation process, a total of 53 completed questionnaires were received. As outlined in Table 5.1 Open ▸ , these included information on the activities of vessels engaged in creeling (43) and demersal trawling (10). One of the demersal trawlers that completed the questionnaires, also provided details of inshore scallop grounds. The majority of questionnaires were completed by local vessels. No questionnaires were returned by nomadic scallop dredgers and only one questionnaire was completed by a visiting squid trawler. It should be noted that nomadic scallop dredgers and visiting squid vessels tend to be in the larger size category (i.e. over 15 m in length) and therefore the spatial distribution of their activity is well represented by the available VMS data.
- The information provided in the questionnaires has been anonymised and is summarised in Table 5.2 Open ▸ and Table 5.3 Open ▸ . Grounds depicted by fishermen have been georeferenced and amalgamated by fishing method/target species and are illustrated in Figure 5.1 Open ▸ , Figure 5.2 Open ▸ and Figure 5.3 Open ▸ .
- An example of the questionnaires used for consultation is included within annex A. It should be noted that an older version of the site boundary was used in the questionnaires distributed in December 2021.
- The commercial fisheries study area supports a range of commercial fishing activities. As shown in Table 6.1: and Figure 6.1 Open ▸ , fisheries surveillance sightings data for the period 2011 to 2020 suggest that demersal trawling accounts for the majority of fishing activity in the commercial fisheries study area, followed by creeling and scallop dredging.
- The majority of surveillance sightings of demersal trawlers are found within the 6 nm limit in ICES rectangles 41E7 and 40E7 and are therefore predominantly of relevance to the Proposed Development export cable corridor. Surveillance sightings of creelers also appear to be more predominant in inshore areas within the 6 nm limit. Although in comparatively low numbers, sightings of creelers have also been recorded in areas further offshore, including within the boundary of the Proposed Development array area ( Figure 6.1 Open ▸ ).
- In the case of scallop dredging, surveillance sightings suggest that within the commercial fisheries study area fishing activity is predominantly focused around ICES rectangle 41E8, where the Proposed Development array area is located, and to its west, in the northern section of ICES rectangle 41E7. As it is apparent from Figure 6.1 Open ▸ , sightings of vessels engaged in scallop dredging in these areas are relatively low compared to those recorded in grounds to the north (e.g. in ICES rectangles 42E7 and 42E8).
The nationality of the vessels recorded during surveillance activities is illustrated in Figure 6.2:. As shown practically the totality of sightings within the commercial fisheries study area are of UK vessels. Activity by non-UK vessels in the commercial fisheries study area is expected at negligible levels. A total of nine sightings of non-UK vessels have been recorded during the period 2011 – 2020. These correspond with Danish vessels (sandeel trawlers) and were recorded during 2012 (eight sightings) and 2015 (one sighting). In this context it is important to note that the commercial fisheries study area falls within the area where a prohibition to fish for sandeel with towed gears with a cod-end mesh size of less than 32 mm is in place ( Figure 4.1 Open ▸ ). Sandeel trawlers typically use mesh-sizes under 32 mm (Hawkings et al., 1998) and therefore, at present, Danish vessels engaged in the sandeel fishery would not be expected to be active in the commercial fisheries study area.
- An overview of the value (£) of the landings from the commercial fisheries study area is provided in Figure 6.3 Open ▸ to Figure 6.5 Open ▸ , based on analysis of landings by ICES rectangle, species and fishing method.
- As shown, demersal trawling represents the main fishing activity by value in the commercial fisheries study area, followed by creeling and scallop dredging ( Figure 6.3 Open ▸ ).
- Demersal trawling is predominantly undertaken in inshore rectangle 41E7 and to a lesser extent within rectangle 40E7 ( Figure 6.4 Open ▸ ). Nephrops is the principal species targeted by demersal trawlers, however, other species, particularly squid, are also targeted by these vessels at times ( Figure 6.3 Open ▸ and Figure 6.5 Open ▸ ).
- The lobster and crab fishery contributes significantly to the overall value of the landings across the commercial fisheries study area, including in offshore rectangle 41E8, where the Proposed Development array area is located. Overall, however, landings of lobster and crab are higher in inshore areas, particularly in ICES rectangle 41E7 ( Figure 6.5 Open ▸ ).
- Scallop dredging accounts for relatively lower landings values than demersal trawling and creeling. The majority of the landings of scallop in the commercial fisheries study area come from ICES rectangles 41E8 and 41E7.
6.2. Demersal Trawling
- An indication of the principal areas targeted by demersal trawlers in the commercial fisheries study area is provided in Figure 6.6 Open ▸ to Figure 6.8 Open ▸ based on analysis of VMS data by value for vessels over 15 m in length (annual average 2015 -2019), surveillance sightings of demersal trawlers and information on the distribution of trawlers presented in Shelmerdine and Mouat (2021).
- As shown, overall activity by demersal trawlers appears to concentrate in inshore areas, predominantly within the 6 nm limit, including in areas that overlap with the Proposed Development export cable corridor, with very low levels of fishing anticipated in the Proposed Development array area.
- It should be noted that a significant number of demersal trawlers active in the area are under 15 m in length, and therefore, their activity is not accounted for in the VMS dataset. In addition, as described in section 6.1, whilst Nephrops is the principal species targeted by demersal trawlers in areas of relevance to the Proposed Development, other species, particularly squid, are also targeted by some vessels. The data for demersal trawlers presented in Figure 6.6 Open ▸ and Figure 6.7 Open ▸ , includes activity by demersal trawlers regardless of target species.
- Detailed information is also provided for the Nephrops (section 6.2.2) and squid (section 6.2.3) fisheries.
6.2.2. Nephrops Fishery
Fishing gear, vessels and operating practices
- Nephrops (also known as Dublin Bay prawn or Langoustine) are highly substrate-specific, dwelling in areas of fine and silty mud sediment that facilitates their burrowing behaviour. For the purposes of management and stock assessment, Nephrops stocks are split into “Functional Units” (FU). The distribution of mud habitat in the commercial fisheries study area and the boundaries of FUs are illustrated in Figure 6.9 Open ▸ . As shown, the inshore rectangles of the commercial fisheries study area (rectangles 41E7 and 40E7) fall within FU8 (Firth of Forth) and the inshore section of the Proposed Development export cable corridor overlaps with part of the Nephrops habitat identified within FU8. The level of overlap between the Proposed Development export cable corridor and identified Nephrops habitat is however relatively small (approximately 31.4 km2, which represents less than 3.5% of the overall Nephrops habitat identified in FU8).
- Vessels active in the commercial fisheries study area are typically 10 m - 20 m in length. Twin-rig trawls are most commonly used in this area; however, some vessels use single trawl nets ( Figure 6.10 Open ▸ ). In twin-rigged trawling, the vessel tows two nets that are spread open with trawl doors and kept flush with the seabed by a clump weight positioned between the two nets.
- During consultation typical fishing trip durations reported by demersal trawlers were between 24 hours and 36 hours and steaming distances between 2 nm and 50 nm.
- Nephrops are targeted all year round. An indication of the seasonality of the Nephrops fishery is given in Figure 6.11 Open ▸ based on analysis of landings values by month (average 2015 -2019). As shown, the highest landings are recorded from June to August, peaking in July. Relatively high landings values are also recorded from November to January. Similarly, during consultation, the year-round nature of the fishery was noted and the periods between May to July and October to January were reported as the main fishing seasons in the Firth of Forth and in the grounds off Dunbar, respectively ( Table 5.2 Open ▸ ).
Distribution of fishing activity
- An indication of the distribution of Nephrops trawling activity within the commercial fisheries study area is provided in Figure 6.12 Open ▸ to Figure 6.14 Open ▸ based on MMO landings data, ScotMap data for under 15 m Nephrops trawlers (Kafas et al., 2014) and Marine Scotland’s VMS data (effort) for over 15 m Nephrops demersal trawlers (average 2009 -2017), respectively.
- As it is apparent from the datasets, the Nephrops fishery concentrates in the inshore section of the commercial fisheries study area, particularly in rectangle 41E7 and 40E7, overlapping with the Proposed Development export cable corridor. The available data indicates that the Proposed Development array area supports negligible levels of activity by vessels engaged in this fishery and the majority of activity is focused within the 6 nm limit.
- The main Nephrops grounds identified from the data above are consistent with those reported by fishermen during consultation (see Figure 5.2 Open ▸ ).
6.2.3. Squid Fishery
Fishing gear, vessels and operating practices
- The squid fishery in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay areas is relatively new, with the Moray Firth being a more established squid fishing ground. Nevertheless, the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay seasonal squid fishery is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to the Nephrops fishery in the area.
- Squid are semi-demersal and their distribution tends to be associated with specific rocky and hard seabed substrates. In Scottish waters, squid exhibit a distinct seasonal migration pattern, travelling up to 500 km from the west coast of Scotland to the east coast in the winter months (Hastie, et al., 2009).
- Squid are typically caught using a single demersal trawl net with rockhoppers ( Figure 6.15 Open ▸ ,) with many of the trawlers that target Nephrops changing gear to target the seasonal squid fishery. As noted in section 6.2.2 the Nephrops fishery is year-round, however if catches of Nephrops are low fishermen may decide to switch gear and target squid instead during the squid season. In addition to local demersal trawlers, visiting vessels based in other areas in the north-east coast of Scotland may also target squid in the commercial fisheries study area at times.
- Monthly landings of squid in the commercial fisheries study area (average 2015 - 2019) are shown in Figure 6.16 Open ▸ based on analysis of landings (£) by month (average 2015 - 2019). As shown, the squid fishery is highly seasonal and is primarily undertaken during the late summer/early autumn months with peak landings generally recorded around September. In line with this, during consultation, local fishermen targeting squid in the commercial fisheries study area reported that the main squid season runs between August and December ( Table 5.3 Open ▸ ).
Distribution of fishing activity
- As shown in Figure 6.17 Open ▸ , overall, landings of squid within the commercial fisheries study area are low compared to those recorded in other areas off the east coast of Scotland and are for the most part recorded in inshore rectangles 41E7 and 40E7, with limited landings in rectangle 41E8, where the Proposed Development array area is located.
- Squid grounds are often located in inshore areas; however, their location may vary from year to year and activity generally moves further offshore as the season progresses. The level of activity and distribution of this fishery will consequently vary depending on year and period within the season.
- There are no recent publicly available squid specific data layers showing fishing activity around the area of the Proposed Development. In the absence of more recent data, historic data for under 15 m demersal trawlers potentially targeting squid (“not Nephrops trawls”) collected as part of the ScotMap project (Kafas et al., 2014) is provided in Figure 6.18 Open ▸ . In addition, VMS intensity data for over 15 m squid trawlers (average 2009 -2013) available from Kafas et al. (2013) is also illustrated in Figure 6.19 Open ▸ .
- The above historic data suggests that activity by squid trawlers for the most part concentrates on inshore areas within the commercial fisheries study area. Activity in the immediate area of the Proposed Development export cable corridor is relatively low, compared to fishing levels across nearshore areas within ICES rectangle 41E7. Information on squid grounds provided by fishermen during consultation ( Figure 5.2 Open ▸ ) indicates that squid is targeted by some vessels in the nearshore section of the Proposed Development export cable corridor as well as within the boundaries of the Proposed Development array area. It is also noted that recent VMS data for over 15 m demersal trawlers, suggest potential for some squid fishing activity to occur at times within the Proposed Development array area ( Figure 6.19 Open ▸ .). Although this dataset does not specify target species, given the lack of Nephrops suitable habitat in the array area, it is likely that that the demersal trawling activity recorded in the VMS dataset in this area corresponds with vessels engaged in the squid fishery.
6.3. Lobster and Crab Fishery
- European lobster Homarus gammarus, edible crab Cancer pagurus and velvet crab Necora puber are typically caught in creels. A variety of creels can be used depending on the target species, but parlour creels are the preferred type in the east coast of Scotland ( Figure 6.20 Open ▸ ) (Marine Scotland, 2017).
- As shown in Table 5.1 Open ▸ Table 5.2 Open ▸ , vessels active in the commercial fisheries study area are typically under 10 m in length. The majority of them concentrate their activity on creeling only; however, a few vessels are multi-purpose and target Nephrops with demersal trawls seasonally. Typical fishing trip durations were reported to be generally between 10 and 18 hours with steamed distances typically ranging from 2 nm to 28 nm. A few vessels, however, reported greater operational ranges.
- Creeling for lobster and crab is not subject to total allowable catch (TAC) or similar restrictions on the tonnage that can be landed. The principal method to control landings is through the implementation of Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS) to protect juvenile animals. In addition, vessels targeting these species are required to have a shellfish entitlement attached to their licence.
- Monthly landings of crab and lobster are illustrated in Figure 6.22 Open ▸ . As shown, overall, lobster and crab landings are higher over the summer and autumn months, peaking in August and September, respectively. However, the fishery is active all year round, with significant landings reported throughout the year.
- The year-round importance of the fishery was noted by local fishermen during consultation ( Table 5.2 Open ▸ ).
- An indication of the distribution of fishing by creelers in the commercial fisheries study area is given in Figure 6.23 Open ▸ to Figure 6.29 Open ▸ .
- Based on surveillance sightings ( Figure 6.23 Open ▸ ), landings ( Figure 6.24 Open ▸ ) and data gathered as part of the Shelmerdine and Mouat (2021) study ( Figure 6.25 Open ▸ ), the Creel Fishery Effort Study (Marine Scotland, 2017) ( Figure 6.26 Open ▸ ), and the ScotMap project (Kafas et al., 2014) ( Figure 6.27 Open ▸ ), indicate that in the commercial fisheries study area, creeling is undertaken at higher levels close to shore. Although at lower levels, significant activity has also been reported from offshore areas, including within the Proposed Development array area, particularly around its north-western section.
- The presence of creels within the Proposed Development array area is also evident from recent information on the location of static gear available from the SWFPA website. This is illustrated in Figure 6.28 Open ▸ .
- Creelers active in the commercial fisheries study area are predominantly under 15 m in length. As shown in Figure 6.29 Open ▸ , analysis of VMS data suggests that activity by larger creelers (over 15m) in areas of relevance to the Proposed Development occurs at negligible levels and is restricted to the north-western section of the Proposed Development array area.
6.4. Scallop Fishery
- King scallop Pecten maximus is typically found in areas of sandy gravel interspersed with cobble (Catherall and Kaiser, 2014). The ‘Newhaven’ scallop mechanical dredge is typically used by the larger scallop fishing fleet to flip scallops out of the seabed ( Figure 6.30 Open ▸ ). It compromises heavy steel tow bars with toothed dredges that are connected to a collector bag dragged on the seabed behind the teeth (Catherall and Kaiser, 2014).
- Scallop dredging vessels require a license and are restricted by the number of dredges they can use, depending upon the distance they are operating from the coast. Vessels fishing outside the 12 nm limit are allowed up to 14 dredges per side; between 6 nm and 12 nm up to ten dredges per side are permitted; and up to eight dredges per side inside 6 nm. The minimum landing size for scallops is 105 mm in all areas around Scotland with the exception of the Irish Sea and Shetland.
- The Scottish scallop fishery is split into two main fleets; a category of smaller vessels (generally under 15 m in length) that work in inshore areas, and a category of larger vessels (generally above 15 m in length) that work further offshore, and are typically nomadic in nature (Cappell, et al., 2013; Cappell, et al., 2018). The nomadic component of the scallop fleet moves around the UK targeting scallop grounds in peak abundance.
- Monthly landings of scallops in the commercial fisheries study area are illustrated in Figure 6.31 Open ▸ (average 2015 -2019). As shown, scallop dredging is undertaken all year round, however, higher landings tend to be recorded over the spring and summer months, peaking in May.
- It is important to note that the scallop fishery is cyclical in nature, and productive grounds rotate around the UK on a seven-to-eight-year cycle (Cappel et al., 2018). An indication of the annual variation/cycle of the scallop fishery in the commercial fisheries study area is given in Figure 6.32 Open ▸ based on analysis of scallop landings. The value of landings generally increased from 2011, peaking between 2016 and 2018. The value of landings was c. £200,000.00 less in 2019.