Salmon Scotland says HPMA proposal threatens jobs

Industry organisation Salmon Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to think again on controversial plans for “Highly Protected Marine Areas” (HPMAs) that would see 10% of Scottish waters out of bounds for any form of commercial activity.

Salmon Scotland, which represents salmon producers and the industry’s supply chain, said the government should not put politics before jobs.

As reported in the April issue of Fish Farmer (“One-tenth of the seas”, page 38), HPMAs would designate 10% of Scottish coastal waters as no-go areas for most forms of human activity, including aquaculture, any form of fishing and offshore energy. The commitment to bring in HPMAs was part of the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish Greens, which effectively underpins the current ruling coalition in the Scottish Parliament.

Consultation on the HPMA proposals, which have attracted criticism from the fishing industry, coastal communities and even some SNP politicians, closed yesterday.

Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “We support proposals that can improve Scotland’s marine environment. Scotland’s reputation for the very best farm-raised and wild-caught seafood depends on the seas around our coastline. However banning responsible sea use is not the answer… we have grave concerns that HPMAs as currently proposed will result in significant job losses in some of our most fragile coastal communities, and damage the Scottish Government’s own blue economy approach that supports sustainable economic growth.”

He said that the HPMA plans would create a disadvantage for Scottish salmon producers in favour of their Scandinavian competitors, adding: ““There appears virtually no scientific justification about what HPMAs are intended to achieve. Nor is there any evidence that aquaculture cannot coexist within HPMAs as we already do with marine protected areas…. HPMAs have been developed in isolation and jar with existing government policies such as the national marine plan, the aquaculture vision, trade and economic policy, economic policy and local authority development plans for the marine area.”

One in three salmon farms already operate in marine protected areas (MPAs), which cover 37 per cent of Scottish waters. Many of those MPAs were designated after the farms had already been established in the area.

Scott concluded: “HPMAs appear to be politically driven, aimed at keeping the Greens on side rather than any real attempt to improve the health of our seas.”

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