In the 80s it became obvious to local sea anglers and divers that there were no big fish left. The Lamlash Sea Angling festival, which had started in 1961 was cancelled and the Clyde sea angling industry died – worth over £9 million to the Clyde economy. In 1988 the PIEDA report by the Scottish Marine Biological Association indicated that to restore 400 jobs in sea angling in the Clyde the most viable measures were to restrict mobile gear.
In 2003 a Clyde Inshore Fisheries report was produced by Seafish and the Clyde Forum, describing the key features and sustainable ways forward for the Clyde fishermen. Apart from the designation of the Lamlash Bay No Take Zone in 2008, little progress was made in terms of management. There were different perceptions of what sustainable meant to static and mobile fishermen.
The economic impact of sea angling in Scotland was highlighted in a Government report in 2009. The Scottish Marine Association for Marine Science further recommended the need for recovering Scotland’s marine environment, highlighting management of mobile fisheries as the main cause of ecosystem degradation.
In 2010, the Clyde hit the headlines when a scientific paper was published by Thurstan and Roberts. According to landings data, the Clyde was in an ecological meltdown. The report highlighted that the fishery is dominated (over 95% of landings) by trawling for prawns (nephrops) and dredging for scallops. It makes high profits, mostly from exports, but supports few boats and employees.
In 2011, Heath and Speirs’ work also took biomass data into account. They revealed that there were fish in the Clyde, but fish had become smaller and were represented by fewer species. In 1985, finfish (such as cod and haddock) made up more than 60% of the landings by weight but in 2008 this fell to just 2%. There have been signs of some recovery since then.
Following these recent publications COAST, with the help of local MSP Kenneth Gibson, raised concerns, in 2010, with Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead who commissioned Marine Scotland Science, who then conducted the comprehensive Clyde Ecosystem Review in 2012.
In 2012, Bailey and Ryan studied the history, impacts and prospects of recovery of trawling and dredging in the Clyde.
The research shows how failed government policies such as the opening of inshore waters (the 3 mile limit) to trawling in 1984 caused the fall of finfish and the rise of nephrops which accounted for 84% of landings in weight and 87% by value in 2013.
In 2015, the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust proposed a Regulating Order for a more diverse, robust and healthy fishery in the Clyde but this was rejected by most commercial fishermen.
COAST advocate for the recovery a mixed fishery and healthy ecosystem in the Clyde.