The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) is urging the Scottish Government to delay any final decision on the new management arrangements for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) until a proper analysis is made on the socio-economic impact on fishing communities on the West coast of Scotland.

In a letter to Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, says there is a ‘gaping information hole’ on the socio-economic impact of the measures on fragile fishing communities that urgently requires to be filled.

The letter underlines that the SFF fully supports the concept of MPAs as an integral part of marine management, but there needs to be a sensible balance between marine protection and minimising any impact on the sustainable harvesting activities of the Scottish fishing fleet.

However, under the new proposed management measures, 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.

The letter states: “Among the logical objectives of decision-making on Marine Protected Areas two stand out: proper protection of the environment and minimisation of negative effects on marine productivity.  They are by no means mutually exclusive and both feature in the “vision for the marine environment” laid out in the Scottish National Marine Plan and its supporting legislation.  When the SFF publicly praised the unfolding Scottish Government MPA procedure, we thought that a fit-for-purpose process for selection of MPAs had been defined.”

But given the very real fears now raised by fishermen over the impact of the recently announced measures on their livelihoods, the letter urges for there to be a delay in the final decision-making until a full study is carried out on their impact. The SFF is prepared to work closely with the Scottish Government in conducting such a study.

“There already exist clear methodologies for carrying out socio-economic analysis of sustainable livelihoods in communities such as those, covering all relevant elements.  You will have our full cooperation,” says the letter.

“Finally, we reiterate our unswerving commitment to proper protection of the environment, via clearly understood processes, with proper account taken of the consequences of management actions.”

Letter from SFF to the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP