Proposals to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters: consultation

Closed 13 Oct 2023

Opened 21 Jul 2023

Feedback updated 31 Jan 2024

We asked

We sought views on proposals to close fishing to sandeel in all Scottish waters, with the purpose of bringing about wider environmental and ecosystem benefits. The consultation opened on 21 July and closed on 13 October 2023.

The consultation sought views of six questions covering support for the preferred option to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters, alternative or complementary measures that could be considered, the scientific evidence underpinning the proposals, and questions relating to the statutory impact assessments (for example, Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Island Communities Impact Assessment).

You said

A total of 494 written representations were received, comprising of 443 individuals and 51 organisations including the fishing sector, renewable energy developers and recreational interests. There were also 9,815 campaign submissions.

The responses covered a range of issues, including questions on the scientific evidence base on the potential effects of sandeel fisheries management on the marine environment and the applicability of alternative measures. Recurring issues or themes raised in the comments also included issues relating to the UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement, benefits for biodiversity, wellbeing and wildlife.

Overall, the analysis demonstrated that there was overwhelming support (97%) for the preferred option to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters.

An independent analysis of the consultation responses is available on the Scottish Government website. Submitted responses have also been published where permission has been given.

We did

The Scottish Government is grateful to those who took the time to provide a response to the consultation.

Following careful consideration of all responses and representations received and the available scientific evidence, the Scottish Government intends to proceed with the proposals to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters. In reaching this decision, the Scottish Government has applied the precautionary principle to its decision making and ensured alignment with national and international commitments.

The Sandeel (Prohibition Of Fishing) (Scotland) Order 2024 was laid in the Scottish Parliament on 5 February 2024 and will come into force on 26 March 2024. The Order will cover all Scottish waters including that part of the UK’s exclusive economic zone adjacent to Scotland and, will apply to all vessels fishing in these waters.

The Scottish Government has published its response to the consultation analysis report.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


Given the importance of sandeel to the wider ecosystem and the subsequent benefit in aiding long-term sustainability and resilience of the marine environment, it remains an overarching Scottish Government position, which is reflected in Scotland’s Fisheries Management Strategy, not to support fishing for sandeel in our waters. For this reason, the UK, supported by the Scottish Government, has not allocated sandeel quota since 2021.

There are several measures in place for the protection of sandeel stocks, through the network of Marine Protected Areas. Furthermore, a closure in sandeel management area 4 has been in place since 2000, for the purpose of avoiding bycatch of cod and haddock in the area, and to avoid negative impacts on the food supply for seabirds. The Scottish Government has responsibility for the part of the closed area which lies in Scottish waters. 

Following the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands in May, the Scottish Government now wishes to consult on proposals to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters to further ensure the sustainability of the sandeel stock, as well as providing wider ecosystem benefits.

This consultation sets out the key issues that need to be considered in determining whether to close fishing for sandeel in all Scottish waters, subject to views received in response. The Scottish Government wishes to consult on proposals to close fishing for sandeel in Scottish waters that meet as far as possible the following aims:

  1. To seek effective protection of sandeel, as a contribution to the wider marine ecosystem.
  2. To provide the opportunity for wider ecosystem benefits to a range of species, including commercial fish species, seabirds and marine mammals, that will also improve resilience to changes in the marine environment.
  3. To complement, as far as possible, existing sandeel management measures.

Read the full consultation paper.

Links to supporting documents are provided in the Related section at the bottom of this page.


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