Seafood sectors unite to fight HPMA plan

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Representatives of Scotland’s farmed and catch fishing communities have united in opposition to measures that would ban all commercial activity from 10% of the country’s waters.

Industry body Salmon Scotland, the Scottish Fishermens’ Federation, Seafood Scotland, Scottish Association of Fish Producers’ Organisations, Community Fisheries Inshore Alliance and Scottish Seafood Association are calling for a rethink on proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which the Scottish Government has pledged to bring in.

The proposed regulations would bar all industry from designated HPMAs, including fish farming, all forms of catch fishing and offshore wind farms. The commitment to the measure is part of the SNP government’s Bute House Agreement with its minority coalition partner, the Scottish Greens. It has, however, run into opposition from coastal communities and MSPs, including some SNP elected members.

The Seafood Coalition is launching a petition calling for a rethink of the proposals. It is also asking for a review of the results from the current marine protected areas (MPAs) that already cover 37% of Scottish waters, and it suggests learning from the pilot programs of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in other UK waters.

The petition is expected to go live on the Scottish Parliament’s website www.parliament.scot/ shortly. In the meantime, those interested in receiving a copy of the petition can leave their contact details here.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Scottish salmon and Scottish seafood are the best in the world, but HPMAs put this global success story at risk.

“We must stand united to ensure our collective voice is heard loud and clear.

“There is scant scientific justification for the proposed HPMAs, and an outright ban on responsible sea activities is not the solution.

“The sustainable growth of our salmon farms and other sectors is vital for the well-being of our coastal communities, the overall economy, and the vision of the Scottish Government. “These proposals present a significant threat to our rural way of life, and opposition is growing both inside and outside of Holyrood.”

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, which represents around 400 vessels, said: “Banning fishing in at least 10% of our waters is the wrong approach.

“No evidence has been produced by ministers to show why HPMAs are necessary or that they will achieve their very vague aims.

“They are being introduced to appease the Greens in the coalition government and will cost jobs, devastate Scottish coastal and island communities and will push the seafood sector into the red.”

“It’s important that we push this message home, so we’re calling on people to sign the petition once it goes live on the Parliament’s website!”

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said: “While the government’s aim to protect Scotland’s marine environment is commendable and over a third of Scotland’s seas are already designated for protection, concerns have been raised about the impact of HPMAs on rural communities and the businesses that support them.

“It is crucial that the Scottish Government listens to all stakeholders and takes into account their concerns and perspectives.

“Furthermore, the government must not be beholden to any particular political agenda, including that of the Greens, and must ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are protected.”

The petition states:

Scotland’s government and seafood businesses share the same goal – healthy, productive seas for a healthy and productive economy.

This requires responsible and sustainable use allowing natural resources to thrive, balancing food production and nature conservation. It should be supported by continued advancement of knowledge through improved science and evidence.

We call upon the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to:

  • Drop the current policy that commits the Scottish Government to designate “… a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas …” outlined in the Bute House agreement – it’s the wrong approach, designed for the wrong reasons.
  • Follow the science – develop an evidence-based approach that analyses the potential issues to inform policy outcomes that can demonstrably achieve the Scottish Government’s objectives of protecting the marine environment and enabling coastal communities and our world-class seafood sector to thrive. This approach should be led independently.
  • Evaluate what’s already been achieved with the existing marine protected area (MPA) network, covering 37% of Scottish waters, and their effect in achieving intended outcomes.
  • Learn from HPMA pilots in other UK waters.
  • Build a plan together through a collaborative and constructive approach between government and stakeholders to devise a science-based scheme that has genuine buy-in across all stakeholders.

An MSP signs the HPMA petition, 15 June

 

 

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