Fishermen have warned their industry could be ruined and communities will die if planned regulation goes ahead.

The Clyde Fishermen’s Association has said the viability of fishing in the firth would be undermined by changes to regulations governing marine protected areas (MPA), leading to economic collapse in the towns and villages dominated by fishing.

The change to the regulations means fishing vessels could be restricted from certain areas, including south of Arran and the Sound of Jura, for environmental reasons.

Campaigners have long said the Clyde, once one of the UK’s richest areas of biodiversity, requires stricter protection after decades of overfishing.

But Kenny MacNab, 60, from Tarbert, who is a fifth generation fisherman, believes the regulation is harming the industry.

“I have never seen fewer boats. There is not nearly the amount there were. The way we are being managed is unbelievable. We are being regulated into extinction,” the chairman of the association said.

“A lot of the regulations are for the good, but a lot of people don’t want to see that side of the story. The public are being brainwashing by the negativity of the environmental lobby.

“We do not have the time or money to fight against it and we feel we are just being swept to one side."

The fisherman, who has been working at sea for 40 years, is particularly concerned about the effect on coastal communities such as his own.

“I am from Tarbert and we have 50 fishermen and around 30 jobs rely on that industry. If the reforms go ahead we’re finished and if we’re finished the community is finished. It is a ripple effect through the community.

“We are struggling to keep young people in the community and if those industries go young people and families will move from the area.

“The community at the moment is sustainable. We are managing to keep going, but it is fishing that keeps it going.

“I can see big, big changes ahead. These communities are going to die.”

In the 1970s heyday of fishing in the Clyde the CFA represented more than 120 boats, now that number is down to just 67, employing around 2,040 fishermen.

The catch has also changed; where once herring was the predominant haul, tastes evolved and stocks dwindled – now vessels trawl for more readily available prawns and scallops.

In recent years, as commercial fishing has floundered the tourism industry in the area has grown, bringing new residents who, it is claimed, do not appreciate the social, cultural and economic value of fishing to the communities.

Elaine Whyte, secretary of the CFA, said: “Fishing has contributed a huge amount to our communities over the years and now the industry is under threat of extinction due to unnecessarily ambitious proposed MPAs and a regulating order imposed by the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust.

“The Clyde fishery is already heavily regulated and controlled to ensure sustainable fishing and additional tiers of management will only spell the death knell of our industry. We fully support marine conservation and the principle of MPAs, but it is vital that such management measures are proportionate and enable the continuation of sustainable fishing.

“Over the last few years a number of different NGOs and lobbyists have been saying there is no fish left in the Clyde, which has worried the public, but this is not true. We want to let the public know the truth and what is happening with regulation.”

The association is hosting a series of meetings in Carradale, Campbeltown, Tarbert, Port Ellen, Troon and Largs to highlight the economic and social importance of fishing to local communities.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and environment is currently considering views expressed by stakeholders and the rural affairs, climate change and environment committee.

“At every step of the MPA process we have put information into the public domain and we will do so once again when the cabinet secretary makes his final decision."