Ayrshire marine conservation campaigners say that current measures to improve cod stocks in the Firth of Clyde offer no protection from the activities most likely to harm spawning grounds.

The government has recently been conducting its biannual review of protective measures for Clyde cod.

An area of the Firth of Clyde is temporarily closed every year so that cod may breed undisturbed. However, there are exemptions so that certain methods of fishing can continue uninterrupted, including bottom-trawling and scallop dredging.

The Our Seas coalition is urging people around the Clyde to stand up for the regeneration of fish populations in the Firth of Clyde and support more safeguards for cod spawning grounds.

Jenny Crockett, from Arran Coast, who are members of Our Seas, was one of those calling for action.

She said: “One of the greatest failings of this legislation is that trawling and dredging are permitted within the closed area, negating any benefit from ‘protecting’ spawning grounds.”

“Fisheries management measures tend to focus on controlling the amount of fish caught and technical fishing gear measures that support this, although these measures are important, protecting habitats that are crucial to the life history of the target fish must be a more prominent part of the overall approach for fisheries management.

“Research is showing the crucial role of seabed habitat in supporting early life stages of fish such as cod, and that the biodiversity of the seabed affects the abundance and growth of juvenile demersal fish.

“It is therefore time for the Scottish Government to address fisheries protection in the Clyde with an ecosystem-based approach to protect essential habitats, such as cod spawning grounds.”

Ailsa McLellan, Coordinator of the Our Seas coalition, added: “These measures are clearly not working, this is one of many examples of the Scottish Government talking a good game with respect to marine and fisheries management, whilst failing to do anything effective to improve the situation.

“The west of Scotland cod stock has collapsed, with no signs of the population recovering. How can anyone expect fish populations to recover without changing fisheries management?

“Catch limits are continually set above scientific advice and there is no monitoring or enforcement of the ban on discards.

“It is known that the Nephrops trawl fleet catches and discards a significant number of cod as bycatch, and both trawling and dredging impact the seabed as heavy gear is towed behind the boats, so it makes no sense for these fishing methods to be allowed in an area that is supposedly closed for the benefit of cod conservation.”

The Our Seas coalition are calling for the urgent reinstatement of an inshore limit on the use of bottom towed fishing gear around Scotland’s coasts to halt and reverse the damage done to habitats, carbon sinks, and fisheries by prawn trawling and scallop dredging.