Protected areas scheme ‘threatens inshore fishing’

SCOTLAND’S west coast inshore fishermen are claiming the viability of the industry is being threatened by the recently-announced management measures for Marine Protected Areas (MPA).

Marine Protected Areas protect threatened species and habitats, such as this colony of sea birds. Picture: PA

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) – and its constituent associations – have met with fisheries minister Richard Lochhead to outline their fears.

The Scottish Government announced on 11 June the management measures for 11 inshore MPAs and nine Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).

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The measures have caused dismay to inshore fishermen who claim they went far beyond the defined purpose of the MPA project, prohibiting fishing over much greater sea areas than what appeared to be agreed during the lengthy consultation process.

Many west coast inshore fishermen are fearful that their operations will no longer be viable and that they will be forced to fish in more exposed and stormier offshore areas.

SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong claimed there was an overwhelming feeling within the industry that these new MPA management measures represented a significant breach of trust.

He said: “The Scottish fishing industry fully supports the rational protection of the marine environment, and in accordance with the Cabinet Secretary’s own guidance on MPAs, the parallel principle of continued sustainable use of the sea.

“A coherent project was run over the last four years by the Scottish Government with full participation from the industry to deliver these objectives of healthy and productive seas.

“During this consultation, a comprehensive plan, containing much concession and compromise by the fishing industry, was forged.”

He added: “To our astonishment, we find that the Cabinet Secretary’s actual decisions have disregarded the orderly process which went before and overreached mightily in placing restrictions which will damage local communities.

“For the life of us, we do not know why he has done this and will be seeking an explanation.

“Given that there are radical changes to the industry such as the discard ban coming along by the end of the year, we are now very concerned about what support we may be able to rely upon from the Scottish Government having just had an example of effective abandonment.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “A consultation on management of Marine Protected Areas was conducted last year.

“Organisations and individuals interested in the draft Marine Conservation Orders are welcome to provide written representation to Marine Scotland by 9 August 2015..”

He added Mr Lochhead met with the SFF to discuss MPA management as part of his efforts to balance environmental protection and fishing activity.