|Photo by Jim Howard|
Luce Bay is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC), in order to protect the unique reefs, mudflats and sandbanks. Current fishing restrictions mean that Luce Bay is closed to scallop vessels from March until October each year, while a limit on the number of dredges that can be used is already in place.
The consultation will establish the new measures that are needed to provide greater protection for the features, as well as the extent of commercial fishing taking place within Luce Bay.
Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment, said:
"The Scottish Government is fully committed to striking the right balance between conservation of our precious marine ecosystems and supporting Scotland's coastal fishing communities. That's why, with the help of the Solway Firth Partnership, we are examining the effects of permitted dredging and trawling activity in Luce Bay.
"Luce Bay is home to a rich array of marine biodiversity, which is why it is a protected site of European importance. In light of advice from Scottish Natural Heritage, we are consulting on the additional fisheries management measures in Luce Bay that are necessary to address the impact of mobile gear fishing on the seabed.
"I encourage all fishermen in Luce Bay to respond to this consultation and provide information on the sites they fish, which will prove key to developing effective new measures that protect Luce Bay while allowing a viable fishing industry to continue."
Access the consultation document at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/08/12083719
Luce Bay and Sands in Dumfries and Galloway was designated as a SAC under the EU Habitats Directive in 2005. The area encompasses a large shallow inlet and also includes one of Scotland's most important sand dune systems.
Luce Bay is currently closed to scallop dredging between March 1 and October 31 each year. In addition, scallop vessels are restricted to fishing with a maximum of 8 dredges per side and a minimum landing size for scallops of 110 mm applies. Luce Bay includes significant fisheries - including scallops, lobsters and whelks - as well as recreational fishing.
SNH undertook a broad scale survey of the intertidal and subtidal biotopes in 2007/2008. In response to a request from the Scottish Government for advice on the management of Luce Bay, SNH has confirmed that further management is required.
The consultation on mobile gear fishing (scallop dredging) in Luce Bay begins on August 10 and ends on September 14. In addition to a consultation paper, there will be local meetings with stakeholders. The intention is that additional fisheries management for Luce Bay will be underpinned by fisheries legislation made in the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Government is also asking fishermen to provide information on where they fish in Luce Bay. The Solway Firth Partnership will assist the consultation by collecting fishing information from individual fishermen, including holding local meetings.