A HOLYROOD committee has said it will consider imposing a ban on boats trawling and dredging in Scotland’s inshore waters.

Alistair “Bally” Philip, the national co-ordinator of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, brought a petition to MSPs calling for the return of inshore limits on dredging and trawl fishing gear.

He spoke to the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee as a new poll revealed more than half (56%) of Scots would back a ban on fishing boats dragging nets along the seabed in Scotland’s near inshore zone, which covers waters up to three nautical miles from the shore.

After hearing from Philip, the committee closed his petition and instead pledged to consider the issue when it examines the Scottish Government’s forthcoming National Marine Plan.

Scottish Conservative MSP and committee convener Finlay Carson said: “The majority opinion is we close the petition and incorporate consideration of spatial management of inshore fisheries in our future consideration of the National Marine Plan.”

Philip told MSPs about the environmental impact of both trawling and dredging – practices which see boats drag equipment across the seabed.

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He said: “In this day and age, as we are in the middle of a biodiversity and climate crisis, we are starting to understand more and more the implications and the consequences of trawling and dredging inshore.”

Fish numbers in inshore waters “catastrophically collapsed” after the previous three-mile limit was removed in the 1980s, he added.

“We know for a fact allowing trawling and dredging inshore is decimating many of our shellfish stocks and our priority marine features,” said Philip.

“At the moment we have no effort controls or catch limits on our inshore fisheries, and that means you can have as many trawlers as you like, trawling in the same place, over and over again, there is no limit to the amount of trawling and there is no limit to the amount of shellfish those trawlers can extract from a place.

“It’s complete madness in the 21st century to have such an absence of management of our fisheries.

“If we want to achieve good environmental status, we can’t do it without reducing seabed disturbance.

“If we want to reduce seabed disturbance, we can’t do it without reducing the amount of trawling and dredging.”

His comments came as the Our Seas coalition, which brings together organisations, businesses and communities campaigning for more sustainable use of Scotland’s seas, released the findings of its poll.

Coalition co-ordinator Hayley Wolcott said: “Since the removal of the inshore ban in 1984, intensive and poorly regulated bottom trawling has undermined the health of coastal ecosystems, including fish populations, and this has badly impacted coastal communities.

“A modern inshore limit on damaging bottom trawling is a vital step to ensure that the health of our seabed can recover and rebuild resilience within our rural economy.

“This poll suggests that the majority of people across Scotland support this measure.”