Are Marine Protected Areas management changes a step too far?

Fears over fishing industry jobs
Fears over fishing industry jobs

CONCERN OVER HOW new management measures for Marine Protecting Areas (MPAs) will affect the fishing industry is being expressed by Scottish Labour MSP’s representing Moray and the Highlands and Islands.

Rhoda Grant MSP and her colleague David Stewart MSP have already written to Moray MSP Richard Lochhead in his capacity as Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs raising their concerns over the changes.

It is feared that Scottish Government plans would mean that fishing will be prohibited over a much larger sea area than fishing industry leaders had been expecting – prompting concerns over the effect that could have on jobs.

Last month the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) expressed their “disbelief and anger” at the planned new measures which they say go far beyond the “proportional and evident approach” previously promised.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, said: “A great deal of time and money was spent in genuine participation in the consultancy process.

“We honestly thought that we had in sight a set of compromises on management in the proposed MPAs that would, with a bit of expected give and take, meet the aim and allow us to demonstrate an example of what the Scottish Fisheries Minister has seen fit in the past to call ‘co-management’.

“Unfortunately, the input of the fishing industry was not properly considered in the consultation.

“Our fishermen put their trust in the consultation process and these outcomes may well have implications for future stakeholder engagement.”

After writing to Mr Lochhead, Rhoda Grant said: “I have received numerous letters from constituents and I have also noted concerns of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federations (SFF) who are very concerned about the impact changes to MPA will have on fishing operations.

“I understand that the Scottish Government has extended the MPA project further than European regulations demanded and therefore fishing will now be prohibited over a much larger sea area than many who took part in the consultation process where expecting.

“This in turn has led to many of my constituents being concerned that jobs and rural economies will be put at risk as fishing will become less viable in more exposed and stormier offshore areas.”

David Stewart added: “Fishing is vital to the rural economy and many communities in the Highlands and Islands.

“The Scottish Government should recognise the impact the new MPA will have in terms of socio-economic impact and potential job losses.”