BREXIT has always sent a chill down the spines of those who care about the health of our seas.

Since the vote to leave the European Union charity Open Seas has been warning that there is a “huge danger” of over-fishing. Why? Because already dysfunctional and poorly enforced controls imposed by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) may be lost.

The fishing industry - much of which has lobbied for CFP reform - has dismissed such concerns. Stocks, they argue, will still need to be managed.

Speaking two years ago, Bernie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “Not one extra fin of fish will be caught nor will there be any catching above sensible scientific limits. The fishermen will not be in charge. Our government will be in charge of how fish within our economic zone is caught. This is an opportunity for more sustainable fishing not less.”

But overfishing is not the only threat: there is also ghost gear, the nets and tackle left to pollute waters, hurting sea life such as dolphins

As skippers jostle ahead of Brexit, each trying to “bagsie” traditional grounds to gain the upper hand in talks, there is a risk of more ghost gear.

That, for example, is what happens if a trawler steams through a gill net, or if a gillnetter leaves their gear to block a trawler.

Asked about the recent stand-off west of Shetland, Nick Underdown, head of campaigns at Open Seas, said: “In disputes between fishermen, the health of our environment often suffers the most.

“Set nets can lead to ghost fishing and bottom-trawling can destroy seabed habitat. There are no simple scapegoats for fishing gear conflict, but ultimately it reflects a failure of management.

“The responsibility now lies with Ministers to de-escalate the situation and improve regulation of the fisheries in collaboration with European neighbours.

“The Scottish Government needs to urgently improve fisheries enforcement to deal with illegal and unsustainable fisheries. If high-frequency vessel tracking and electronic monitoring was rolled-out across the fleet, instead of the wholly inadequate track-rate of once every two hours, then it would be much easier for government to manage and fishermen to get redress for illegal behaviour or bad practice at sea.”