A probe has been launched by the fishery protection arm of the Scottish Government after an alleged case of illegal scallop dredging in a Marine Protected Area (MPA) near Loch Broom.
The alleged incident, raised last week, is currently being investigated by Marine Scotland after reports were received of the alleged breach inside the Wester Ross MPA.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed an investigation is under way and that any illegal activity is “completely unacceptable” and urged anybody with any information or evidence to assist with their inquiries.
In order to combat any illegal activity, marine protection vessels are regularly deployed into areas of protection to ensure compliance with regulations is being undertaken.
Vessels found to be in breach of regulations run the risk of being fined, however, campaigners against the illegal fishing in MPAs believe the fee should be enhanced.
A sum of £1.5 million has been set aside by the government branch to introduce new tracking and monitoring equipment over the next two years.
Nick Underdown of Open Seas, an organisation that formed three years ago in an effort to promote more sustainable fisheries in Scotland, believes more must be done to protect the reputation of Scotland’s valuable fishing industry, although stressed that instances of illegal dredging were “shockingly all too frequent”.
He added: “These are environmental and fisheries crimes that are hindering the long-term interests of Scotland’s rural economy.
“People expect Scottish seafood to be traceable and responsibly resourced, but the weak regulation of scallop dredging is damaging consumer trust and the environment at the same time.
“Vessel tracking alone will not solve this – the Scottish Government needs to allocate more resources to deter such illegality.”
He added: “This is about addressing the long term scandal of historically inept fisheries management that has degraded the very ecosystems that our fish stocks rely on.”