Tough new government conservation measures could spell the death knell for fishing in Ayrshire, say boat owners.

The Clyde Fishermen's Association (CFA) claim plans to increase the number of 'marine protected areas' around Scotland's coast could kill off what's left of already decimated trawler fleets.

CFA say traditional fishing has almost died out in Ayr and Girvan and is now seriously under threat in Troon.

Their executive secretary, Elaine Whyte, said: "There is now a very real threat to the existence of small scale fishing communities,

"The Clyde coast already has extensive protections and measures in place.


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"The fishermen in South Ayrshire have been at the forefront of conservation themselves for many years, but their fleets are now in a perilous situation.

"Only 20 years ago 75 boats fished from Troon. Now around six boats regularly fish from this harbour."

South Ayrshire boat owners say they have already suffered through previous tough government conservation measures.

These have include no fishing zones, weekend fishing bans, a size limitation on vessels, and restrictions on trawling for cod, herring, scallops and prawns.

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Last month the Scottish Government committed to designating at least 10 per cent of Scotland's seas as highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), by 2026, to offer better protection to ecosystems.

Commercial and recreational fishing would be banned in the zones.

Scotland already has a major network of marine protected areas covering about 37 per cent of its seas, where boats are prohibited.

Ms Whyte says CFA members are vigorously opposed to the latest measures.

She added: "Fishing in South Ayrshire has substantially reduced to the point that we are facing a critical tipping point for its future.

"The impacts on local fishing communities and jobs by current Scottish Government policy is visible to see."

CFA claim the fishing restrictions - including HPMAs - are being driven by the Scottish Greens, who joined the Scottish Government last year.

Ms Whyte added: "The decision to undertake this process is not based on science, and its impacts would be permanent and damaging, including a loss of local sustainable family businesses.

"We are in no way against conservation,

"The HMPAs would be a disaster for the Clyde, and indeed the west coast, and would destroy local business and communities."

The Scottish Government, which has been approached for comment, has launched a public consultation on their fishing conservation plans, which is open until April 17.

The HPMAs would also restrict swimming, snorkelling and windsurfing, which critics have said could impact on tourism.