16th April '23

Growing Coalition of Voices Opposes Highly Protected Marine Areas

Scottish fishermen have welcomed the growing coalition of voices opposed to the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) on the eve of the closing date of the Scottish Government consultation on the issue.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “In the last few weeks there have been more and more voices from around Scotland’s coastline saying that the Scottish Government’s policy on HPMAs is fundamentally flawed.

“Community groups, local authorities and MSPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their fears that designating at least 10% of Scotland’s seas as HPMAs will have far-reaching consequences for Scotland’s coastal and island communities and economies.

“The HPMA policy arose from the political agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens. It lacks a proper evidence base and does not articulate with any clarity what government is aiming to achieve.

“As the plans are politically driven rather than based on robust policy analysis, there are no data underpinning the process, no time to establish baselines once the sites are identified and no models or indicators to measure their effect. In essence, there will be no way of assessing if the HPMAs are achieving the government’s very vague and unfocused aims.”

Ms Macdonald pointed out that for a policy with such far-reaching impacts, the government’s timescale was completely unrealistic.

“The impact on other marine users is potentially immense, and government hasn’t yet been able to set out how it will assess the displacement of marine activities including fishing into other areas, or the environmental or socio-economic impacts.

“We repeat our call to the Scottish Government to pause, reflect and rethink these proposals, which many people around Scotland’s coastline don’t support.”

Over a third of Scotland’s seas are already designated for nature conservation through the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network where conservation and sustainable use can be balanced.

The fishing industry and other stakeholders have been working with government on this for many years.

“We believe this is the right route. Our industry is supportive of meaningful, scientifically based, and well-founded conservation, but the HPMA policy fails on both these fronts. This HPMA policy is far too high a price to pay for such vague and questionable aims.

“Seafood is a key part of Scotland’s transition to net zero, with a mounting body of science showing that greenhouse gas emissions from seafood are equivalent to those of vegetables, and far lower than other forms of protein production. We need policies that support nature conservation alongside sustainable, low-emission food production, and politically motivated HPMAs threaten that balance, with the government unable to provide any substance to why they believe they are needed.

“Why should coastal communities and fishermen be the ones to suffer from political trade-off decided around the Bute House table?

“The close of the consultation is only the start of the opposition to these ill thought out and deeply damaging plans. Our case is growing stronger and our voices growing louder.”

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