Professor Murray Roberts from the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology joined other scientists, conservationists, fishers and politicians at Our Dynamic Earth Edinburgh to discuss deep sea fishing, its sustainability and what the future holds in Scotland.
Introduced by Stuart Monro from Our Dynamic Earth and chaired by Rob Edwards from the Sunday Herald, the panel gave their perspective on this controversial topic. For a scientific perspective we had Professor Roberts who specialises in deep sea corals, animals and ecosystems under threat from trawling damage. Joining him was Professor Monty Priede from the University of Aberdeen and Dr. David Bailey from the University of Glasgow, who used their expert knowledge on deep-sea fish to address the question 'is deep sea fishing a good thing'.
Professor Priede used examples from the past, such as the collapsed Canadian fishery to illustrate how Scotland can avoid the extinction of their deep-sea species. Both fish biologists highlighted the wide-ranging impact of fishing, with stocks affected not just within the take-zones, but also below the fishing depth limit.
Francis Neat from Marine Scotland brought a policy perspective to the table, showing how we are taking steps to make Scotland deep sea fishery sustainable, but highlighted the need for more data to improve the science basis for decision making.
Mike Park from the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, represented the fisherman's view, showcasing the positive record for Scottish fishers. Mike emphasized the misinformation common to Scottish fisheries, and urged us to trust the fishermen, as it's in their best interests to protect deepsea fish stocks so young Scottish skippers have a livelihood in years to come.
The panel was rounded off by Matt Gianni from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), who explained the EU proposal to reform deep-sea fishing in the NE Atlantic and ban deep sea bottom trawling - he emphasized that 'We don't know the value of deep sea Ecosystems so we don't know what we might lose.'
A lively debate followed, answering questions such as 'In an ideal world, what would the fishing depth limit be?', and 'If you could wave a fairy wand, what would you want for deep sea fishing'. You can watch a video of the talks, which will be uploaded to the DSCC website later this week. The night was live tweeted, by the DSCC (@DeepSeaConserve) and Heriot-Watt Engage (@HWEngage).