Highly protected marine areas: Creel fishers urge Scottish Government ministers to listen to them when creating HPMAs
Creel fishers say they hope the Scottish Government will “embrace any opportunity” to hear what they have to say when drawing up plans for highly-protected marine areas.
The SNP-Green Government is looking to designate at least 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas as highly-protected marine areas (HPMAs).
Fishing would be banned in these areas, including recreational fishing and angling, and swimming and watersports would be restricted in a bid to protect the marine environment.
The idea of pursuing HPMAs was brought about by the Bute House Agreement, which saw the Scottish Greens entering government with the SNP for the first time.
But ever since it has caused heated debates and arguments from the fishing industry as well as from opposition benches within the Scottish Parliament.
Some within the SNP have even criticised the policies, including Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, former leadership candidate Kate Forbes, and rebel backbencher Fergus Ewing. All three represent coastal or island communities in the Highlands.
The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation has now written to the Government offering to give their expertise and experience to help them draft up their plans for HPMAs.
Alistair Bally-Philp, from the federation, who is based on the Isle of Skye, wrote to rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon, net zero secretary Màiri McAllan, and co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Lorna Slater.
He told The Scotsman: “We would hope the Scottish Government would embrace any opportunity to invest in the challenges facing fishing at the moment. I look forward to the Government taking us up on our offer, but so far they have not.”
This comes after Ms McAllan vowed to work with “all fishers” when it came to making sure Scotland had a healthy marine environment. This was in a response to a question from Ariane Burgess, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.
Ms Burgess said Scotland had a legal duty to manage the seas to a good environment standard, including minimising seabed damage and maintaining fish stocks.
She said: “Supporting low-impact fishers like creelers and divers can help us to achieve that commitment while maintaining jobs in fishing. Creelers and scallop divers must be at the heart of fisheries management policies that complement HPMAs”
In response, Ms McAllan said: “We will be publishing an updated programme of measures to improve the status of the seabed, working directly with the fishing industry to focus on getting practical, achievable action to reduce the pressure on habitats most at risk, and commit to working with all fishers and wider communities to ensure we have a healthy marine environment, including for commercial stocks.”
In their letter to the Government ministers, the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation said: “The federation has a long track record of promoting sustainable inshore fisheries policies, including a strategy of wider spatial management.
“Unfortunately without wider spatial management or some other mechanism to protect access to fishing opportunities for the lowest impact, small scale and artisan fishers, we believe the currently proposed HPMAs are capable of doing more harm than good.
“We cannot support HPMA proposals and in our view no one in their right mind should support HPMA proposals to be introduced in absence of wider fisheries management measures.”
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