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A locally-led fisheries management pilot for the Outer Hebrides has reported positive impacts for business and the environment after its first year.

The Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Pilot limits the number of creels deployed in the waters around the isles, with the aim of improving shellfish stocks and ensuring future generations will benefit from a vitally important resource.

At the same time, the pilot is testing a low-cost vessel tracking solution for small inshore fishing vessels. This is being trialled aboard 40 vessels, building on an earlier project led by the University of St Andrews.

Fishermen in the Outer Hebrides are showing strong support for the pilot, after observing positive impacts on their fishing businesses in the first year, according to a report issued on 11 May.

Donald MacLennan, skipper for the Harris-based Valhalla SY549, said: “It’s been a challenging time in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit and the Ukraine conflict, and the rising cost of fuel, creels and nephrops catches are particular concerns.

“However, in spite of these challenges, the first year of the pilot has worked fewer creels and reduced time at sea, leading to a significant improvement in our gross income.

“I believe the pilot proves that with creel fishing, less can be more.”

Duncan MacInnes, secretary of the Western Isles Fisherman’s Association (WIFA), said: “The pilot has brought a sense of stability to the fleet, especially in relation to uncontrolled creel fishing.

“The initial success has been encouraging to the members of WIFA and we would like to see an extension of the initiative to cover a much larger area of the Western Isles.”

The Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Pilot is co-managed by the Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (RIFG) and the Marine Scotland directorate of the Scottish Government. 

The pilot will continue with vessel tracking until October, when an evaluation and qualitative assessment of the pilot project will assess the social and economic impacts of the pilot, and provide insights and recommendations into future projects.

Picture shows Donald MacLennan aboard the Valhalla (Isle of Harris Distillery).