Ayrshire fishermen have blasted new measures being introduced by the Scottish Government to protect cod stocks in the Firth of Clyde.

Exemptions allowing langoustine trawlers, creels and scallop dredgers to use the area during spawning season will be ended.

The Clyde Fishermen’s Association (CFA) says the move will have “a horrific impact” – but the government says it needs to act now to protect cod stocks.

For 20 years, measures to protect spawning cod in the Firth of Clyde have been in place through an annual 11-week closure between February 14 and April 30.

The Clyde Cod Box closure - which was supported by fishermen’s groups - targeted net fishing but allowed trawling to continue. However, as cod stocks haven’t recovered as much as had been hoped, the exemptions have ended.

A CFA spokesperson said: “This decision will have a horrific impact on the fishing families of the Clyde, and we are struggling to identify the reasons for this action. This will mean a total loss of income for many of the small family boats for months.”

“This is not a burden they can easily bear as these fishing communities have already had the hardest two years they can recall between Brexit and Covid.

“Some families may sell up and relocate, families can’t survive for months with no income.

“This will impact not only the fishing economy, but also the wider socio-economy of fishing villages, towns and their facilities such as shops and schools.”

Rural affairs and islands minister, Mairi Gougeon acknowledged there would be short-term impact for fishermen, but said it will “provide a higher chance of stock recovery and contribute to a more sustainable fishery in the west of Scotland.”

A spokesperson from the Community of Arran Seabed Trust welcomed the news, saying: “Today’s announcement is a positive step and shows substantial progress by the Scottish Government to take whitefish and cod recovery seriously.

“Protecting habitats crucial to the life history of fish is a progressive step forward for fisheries measures historically solely focused on number caught.”

The Scottish Greens also welcomed the move.