In addition to these four planned area shut downs, further closures will take place this year when ‘real time’ catch data from fishing and scientific research vessels identifies other spawning grounds or sea areas holding large congregations of juvenile fish.
In 2013, 166 areas amounting to 33,600 square miles of sea were closed to fishing on a temporary basis to protect aggregations of cod. The mechanism is also in place for further closures to protect nursery grounds of juvenile fish such as cod, haddock, whiting and saithe (coley).
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “Scottish fishermen are working hard towards a sustainable future and these closures to protect spawning and young fish highlight this commitment.
“Working in tandem with sampling work conducted by scientists from Marine Scotland, our fishermen accumulate catch data that can identify these vulnerable areas so as to bring around a swift closure.”
The Real Time Closure scheme is one of the ‘conservation credit’ measures that Scotland has taken under the EU’s Cod Recovery Plan to allow Scottish vessels more time at sea in return for adopting conservation-minded fishing practices.
The ongoing recovery of the North Sea cod stock was recently witnessed by adventurer Ben Fogle. Writing in The Telegraph about a fishing trip he went on aboard a north-east fishing trawler, he said: “… half the hauls were brimming with mature Atlantic cod, many 30lb-plus.”