The Scottish Government supports the Scottish marine animal strandings scheme, which investigates the causes of death of marine animals, including entanglements. Through that work, the scheme contributes to the Scottish entanglement alliance project, which aims to monitor and, ultimately, mitigate entanglements.
Mandatory bycatch monitoring is carried out across the United Kingdom under European Union regulations and is delivered under contract through the bycatch monitoring programme of the University of St Andrews. The Scottish Government is leading the development of the UK dolphin and porpoise conservation strategy, which includes actions on bycatch and entanglement. The strategy will be subject to public consultation later in the year.
A European maritime and fisheries fund-funded research project that is looking at cetacean entanglement is under way. Members of the project have called for the piloting of measures to prevent and mitigate entanglement due to fishing gear, but they have been told that they need to establish its extent.
Over the past couple of months, two humpback whales have drowned as a result of entanglement. Last month, another juvenile humpback whale that was entangled in fishing rope and netting was spotted in the Firth of Forth. Does the cabinet secretary support the calls for the pilot? What other measures are in place to prevent whales, dolphins and seals from becoming entangled in our litter?
My first answer outlined a range of on-going work. Obviously, I fully support the work of the Scottish entanglement alliance project to investigate the extent of the problem and to provide an evidence base for proportionate mitigation strategies. However, any pilot fisheries measures should first be discussed with the regional inshore fisheries groups before they come to the Scottish Government.
In 2017, the Scottish Government signed up to the global ghost gear initiative to tackle ghost fishing gear, which is often the reason for the problem. Of course, it is a global problem that needs global action.