SHETLAND’s inshore creel fishermen are being encouraged to get in touch with a new project looking at how to deal with whales, dolphins and other marine creatures which may become entangled in fishing gear.
Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) coordinator Ellie MacLennan was in Shetland recently to speak to fishermen, and she is due to return again to continue her work.
Ellie, from Skye, has spent the last three months visiting ports along the Scottish coast to hear thoughts and experiences of entanglement.
She hopes to encourage “better reporting of these incidents, and enable free exchange of knowledge and skills between fishermen and SEA project partners”.
“It is vital that we get fishermen’s input and take on board their advice and guidance,” Ellie said.
“They are the experts here and no-one knows their waters, gear or animals better than them.”
Ellie added that while fishermen sometimes get a “really bad rap”, they are an “incredibly passionate about the marine life they see day to day when they’re fishing, they really are stewards of the sea and take good care of their office”.
“A lot of these guys are already working to tight financial margins, especially the smaller boats, so something like a humpback entanglement can be a big financial blow for some, for example if it means they’ve lost a whole fleet and any catch that was associated with that, and then the additional time involved in recovering, repairing or replacing that gear,” she said.
Anyone wishing to contact Ellie can do so by visiting the SEA website.
SEA is a collaboration between six organisations including the industry body Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Association, government agency Scottish Natural Heritage, as well as the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
The two-year project is being funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, meanwhile, has received a funding boost of over £800 thanks to a first-time marathon runner.
Ramona Barton, from South Nesting, recently took part in the Berlin Marathon to raise money for the sanctuary, which cares for the likes of seals and otters.