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Marine / SIC convener keen for council to keep up pressure on gill netting

Council convener Andrea Manson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE COUNCIL will continue to look into the practice of industrial gill netting in waters around Shetland, convener Andrea Manson said.

However she stopped short of calling for a ban on gill netting from vessels sized more than 15 metres when asked by Green councillor Alex Armitage.

At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday Manson requested that a report be presented to a future development committee meeting.

It comes after the Shetland Greens and the local fishermen’s association joined forces this week in calling for action from the Scottish Government on “highly destructive” foreign gill netters.

A response from the government can be found here.

Gill netting uses huge monofilament plastic nets that cover vast areas of sea and are designed to catch everything swimming in their vicinity, often resulting in the entanglement of sea mammals and birds.

The nets are generally discarded in the water after use, posing a continued threat both to wildlife and to shipping traffic.

Newly elected Green councillor Armitage raised the matter through a rarely-used feature of the SIC’s governance framework which allows members to ask senior leadership formal questions.

“Industrial gillnetting is a highly destructive intensive fishing method which decimates marine life and threatens the viability of our coastal fishing economy in Shetland,” he said.

“Dumped gillnets, which are made from monofilament plastic and are kilometres long, cause entanglements of marine wildlife and are frequently trawled up by local fishers.

“The Shetland Fishermen’s Association, along with the Shetland Greens, are calling on the Scottish Government to end intensive gillnetting in Scottish waters.

“Will you join us in calling for a ban on gillnetting by boats over 15m – and stand up for the economy and ecology of our coastal communities?”

Manson explained that the matter has been on the agenda of KIMO – the international body designed to prevent pollution and protect the seas – for some time.

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But calling for continued focus on the topic, Manson said it is “something we definitely will have a look at”.

The convener – who formerly chaired the council’s harbour board – said the report to the development committee would “see what sort of pressure we can put on”.

Armitage also noted that it was World Oceans Day, “so it’s a good for us to be discussing this issue”.

It comes nearly two years after a motion, backed by North Isles member Duncan Anderson, was approved by councillors calling on the SIC to make representation to the Scottish Government on the matter of discarded fishing gear.

Anderson said this week on social media that the council had received a “pathetic response – if any response at all” on the matter.

“Hopefully the Greens have a louder voice at Holyrood than the council did,” he said.

“The appalling ecological damage must end. If foreign vessels cannot or will not fish here responsibly, they should be banned from our waters.”

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