CELEBRITY chefs have been blamed for the emergence of a banned form of fishing in Scottish waters.
Electro fishing for razor clams, which involves stunning the creatures by passing an electric current into the seabed, has become a big problem in the Forth.
Police have received numerous complaints about boats electro fishing, saying it is damaging the marine environment and could put lives at risk.
The demand of the clams has soared in recent years after TV chefs featured them in cookery programmes.
The fishing method uses boats which have heavy duty generators fixed to the back, which produce electric currents to stun the clams into emerging from the seabed.
It was banned by the EU in 1998 but boats are reportedly using the method off the Fife coast in areas such as Largo Bay, Kinghorn and Burntisland.
While, Marine Scotland have been monitoring the situation, only one person in Scotland has been reported to the procurator fiscal and only fixed penalty notices have been issued.
Ian Laing, a Fife-based wildlife crime police officer, has received numerous complaints but said that the police were not authorised to act.
He said: “It is an illegal pursuit which Marine Scotland deal with by way of fixed penalty tickets.”
Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance has also been approached by fisherman concerned about the practice and said he had passed the complaints on to the relevant authorities.
He said: “It’s extremely dangerous and it’s also illegal.
“It’s affecting people’s livelihoods because it kills everything else off and I hope the authorities recognise this and do something about it.”
Claire Baker, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said it was not enough to simply define electric clam fishing as illegal.
She said: “We must ensure that robust enforcement measures are in place that will deal with any illegal fishing in our waters.
“We know the dangers that illegal electric razor clam fishing can present in Fife and, with only four fixed penalty notices being issued in the past year, there is a worry that the majority of illegal fishing with electricity is going undetected.
“I appreciate that it is a difficult crime to detect but we must be vigilant. This illegal activity is not only dangerous but also undercuts the activities of local law abiding fisherman.
“There are also real concerns that electric razor clam fishing can be harmful to the wider marine environment and it is a practice which has been banned at a EU level since 1998.”
TV chefs such as Jamie Oliver and James Martin are among those who have featured clams in their dishes.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We also share intelligence with not only police colleagues but also with the Foods Standards Agency and local authority environmental health, who have an interest in the classification of waters in which any illegal harvesting takes place.
“The proceeds from the electro fishing are currently being directed into the black economy due to the illicit nature of the activity and honest, law-abiding fishermen are precluded from participating.
“There are conflicting views about the damage the method causes to other sea-life such as young lobsters, and our own desk study proved inconclusive.
“We are therefore supporting an industry/science partnership study to examine the effects of fishing for razor clams using electricity. The outcome of this study will inform future policy.”