The Scottish Government has an announced that an area of the Firth of Clyde will again be closed to most types of fishing activity in spring 2024 and 2025 to protect spawning cod.

The closure has been in place each year since 2002 during the cod spawning season. While there has been variation, the closures in 2024 and 2025 will be on the same basis as in 2022 and 2023, prohibiting most types of fishing activity for eleven weeks from 14 February to 30 April.



Vulnerable to disruption 

When focussed on mating, cod are less likely to try and avoid fishing gear so are particularly vulnerable to being caught. If disturbed, cod are unlikely to return and may not mate at all that year, with research suggesting that any activity within 10m of the seabed could disrupt spawning activity. 

The closure takes account of the cod’s preference to spawn on gravel and coarse sand, with these areas closed. Surrounding areas, where the seabed is softer sand and mud and cod are less likely to spawn, remain open to fishing.

Fishing for nephrops in the closure area will be prohibited due to the risk of inadvertently catching cod (by-catch), or otherwise disturbing cod spawning sites with fishing gear.

Questions to Minister

The Minister for Energy in the Scottish Government, Gillian Martin, MSP, has addressed inquiries from Finlay Carson MSP, Convener of the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, concerning the closure.

In her response, as reported by The Fishing Daily, the Minister addresses various queries raised by Carson, providing insights into the scientific evidence, work undertaken by the Marine Directorate, and the impact on fishermen. In the letter Martin replies to the question by saying:

In the letter Martin replies to the question saying:

“We are confident that prohibiting all fishing activity within the closure area allows the spawning cod the best protection at a critical point in their life cycle and therefore the best possible chance of increasing in numbers and making a positive contribution to the recovery of cod stocks. No new evidence has been presented and so we are confident that we are basing our policy on the best available science.”

Best available evidence

The Scottish Government stated that fisheries management decisions are based on the best available science. Recent ICES advice on northern shelf cod (the wider stock which includes cod found spawning in the Firth of Clyde) is much more positive than it once was, showing a stock in recovery. However, the government believe it is still appropriate to take a precautionary approach with robust management measures to protect spawning and juvenile fish in inshore waters.

Further information:

The closure for 2024 and 2025 is implemented by a Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI)  laid in the Scottish Parliament on 11 January 2024. The closure is in effect from 14 February to 30 April in 2024 and 2025.

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