We will not force protected zones on coastal communities – McAllan

Scotland’s Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan has said her government’s pledge to introduce marine protected areas will not be imposed on coastal communities against their will.

While defending the plan, she said in an exclusive interview with David Bol, The Herald’s political correspondent, that no sites have yet been identified.

The proposal has brought angry criticism from Scotland’s fishing and seafood sector, with Salmon Scotland warning it will cost jobs in the country’s fish farming sector.

Full details have yet to be published, but under the plan up to 10% of Scotland’s coastline could be designated as “out of bounds” for commercial activity such as salmon farming and fishing.

Last week Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, said last week that while his organisation supported plans to improve the marine environment, Scotland’s reputation for the very best farm raised and wild caught seafood was dependent on the seas around its coastline.

McAllan told The Herald it was important to protect Scotland’s seas, adding: ”We know that the oceans, its ecosystems and species’ abundance are so important to tackling climate change, to having a balance in our natural world.

“Actually, the sea is under pressure to an extent where it’s not able to fulfil those natural functions for us.

“So we know that by having protected areas, we can restore precious ecosystems, we can sure up species abundance.”

During the interview, she pointed to the huge environmental improvements at an existing protected area off the Aran coast which since it was brought in 15 years ago had led to a 400% increase in the abundance of some species.

She told David Bol she acknowledged concerns raised by the industry and coastal communities and said: “I totally, not only understand and care about how coastal and island communities feel.

“I also understood that they would feel that way. And that’s why I wanted to consult so early in the process.”

“We have not, we are not at the stage of having any sites in mind,” she stressed.”

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