Dunbar bird colony at risk says fisherman

John 'Puffin' Fairgrieve, who is worried about the Kittiwake colony at Dunbar.
John 'Puffin' Fairgrieve, who is worried about the Kittiwake colony at Dunbar.

A Dunbar fisherman fears the town’s kittiwake colony is at risk because of the discard ban due to come into force next year.

John ‘Puffin’ Fairgrieve, chairman of Dunbar Fishermen’s Association, said the birds, which nest on the ruins of Dunbar Castle and entrance to Victoria harbour, will face difficulties feeding their young due to new rules on throwing away fish.

He explained: “The kittiwakes depend on discards from the trawlers to feed their young and as of next year all discards will be banned by law. We are concerned that the chicks will starve.

“The discard ban is supposed to be a conservation method but it has not been thought through. We use open top nets to avoid catching fish but some bottom feeders, mainly wee Dabs, are unavoidably caught up with the prawns we target. Buyers don’t want these fish, we are not allowed to sell them on the pier to give local folk a supper and neither are we allowed to sell them for bait to the lobster fishermen. We also discard damaged and dead undersized prawns. Currently, the kittiwakes and gannets get a free feed as a result and there will be less of them without it. What is perhaps most concerning is that we will not be allowed to discard live undersized prawns as everything we catch is to be landed under the new rules. This is practically guaranteeing the species will become under pressure in due course as they won’t be released to grow and breed.

“There is no one with a greater interest in sustainable fishing and protection of the marine environment than inshore fishermen and this new discards ban will risk our future and that of the kittiwakes.”

Dunbar Fishermen’s Association recently joined the Inshore Fishermen’s Alliance consisting of the associations and individual fishermen from Cockenzie, Port Seton, Dunbar, Cove, St Abbs and Eyemouth harbours. The group is to hold talks with officials from Marine Scotland.

The concern comes in the same week as the start of a judicial review, lodged by RSPB Scotland into the Scottish Ministers’ decision to grant consent for four offshore windfarms off the Firths of Forth and Tay. The North Berwick-based Scottish Seabird Centre is calling for further research to be undertaken to ensure that the risks to puffins and other seabirds are minimised. It is being backed by multi-award winning environmentalist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of explorer Jacques Cousteau, who has undertaken four decades of pioneering work around the world’s oceans.