A high-profile television campaign by the celebrity chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, has sparked widespread public concern about the scallop fishing industry. He has been warmly endorsed by environmental groups, but deeply upset the industry.
Now tensions are rising over the Scottish Government’s plan to re-examine the sustainability of scallop dredging. The promised review, which will cover all aspects of the industry and is due to start in April, could lead to new controls on dredgers.
Scallops are Scotland’s second most valuable shellfish fishery, with 16,000 tonnes a year taken from the sea mostly for export. But dredging for them has attracted growing criticism because of the damage it can inflict on fish nurseries, coral reefs and marine wildlife.
This was dramatised by ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight’ on Channel 4 by a tractor pulling dredging gear over a carefully crafted sand sculpture of the seabed on a beach, much to the horror on onlookers. The Scottish government’s review was welcomed by the Fish Fight campaign yesterday, with a spokesman calling for a network of new marine protected areas.
The umbrella group for Scotland’s green groups, Scottish Environment Link, has been campaigning for a review of scallop dredging. Calum Duncan, from the Marine Conservation Society, argued that it could lead to “ecological wipe-out” of the more sensitive areas of the seabed.