Representing & Supporting Shetland’s Fishermen

Lamlash Bay: an exercise in exaggeration and embellishment
July 20th 2023

There is no clear evidence that establishing the No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay has helped fish stocks or fishermen, according to a new analysis of the zone’s limited scientific data.

Evidence from the 2.7km2 area, which was created in 2008 off the coast of Arran, shows falling abundances of crab and juvenile lobsters – with very little evidence of any spillover effect to benefit commercial fisheries in the surrounding area.

Lamlash Bay is frequently cited as evidence to justify the creation of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), or similar zones where fishing would be outlawed.

But a paper produced by the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, in its Fishy Falsehoods series, now calls into question the exaggerated claims made for its “success”.

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said: “Our analysis shows that the evidence from Lamlash Bay is extremely limited, but what little evidence there is reveals that the claims often made about the No Take Zone – that it’s an ‘excellent example’ of marine protection, which also benefits local fishermen – is not an accurate reflection of the scientific reality.

“Brown crab and juvenile lobster stock levels have fallen in Lamlash Bay, and the increased abundance of scallops has actually been smaller inside the protected zone than outside it.

“The anti-fishing lobby have long made much of the supposed benefits of Lamlash Bay, but conveniently fail to mention the whole truth – and instead only publicise the cherry-picked information that suits their political agenda.”

Mr Lawson added: “The Scottish Government has decided to rethink its plans for enhanced marine protection, and no one has a greater interest in conservation than the fishing communities which rely on sustainable stocks, but any new pathway for marine protection that draws on Lamlash Bay will not be one based on solid scientific evidence.

“The Scottish Government must be careful to ensure an impartial and evidence-based approach to any future fisheries management and conservation efforts. This paper – which we encourage everyone interested to read - underlines that Lamlash Bay is far from the fisheries nirvana that some conservationists have claimed it to be. Our politicians should be much more wary of uncritically accepting and repeating those claims.”

The full paper can be viewed here: