Salmon Scotland welcomes HPMAs climb-down

Industry body Salmon Scotland has welcomed the news that the plan to designate a tenth of Scottish waters as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) by 2026 has been shelved.

Under proposals set out last December, fishing and fish farming, including existing farm sites, would have been barred from those sites identified as HPMAs. The plans had sparked criticism from the seafood industry and coastal communities, however, and earlier today the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero in the Scottish government, Mairi McAllan, said that alternative proposals would be published after the summer recess.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland said: “HPMAs united coastal communities and MSPs in total opposition, as they posed a risk of banning all human activity from vast swathes of Scotland’s coastline.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s confirmation that HPMAs, as currently conceived, will be scrapped.

“This decision comes as a massive relief to salmon farmers and others who were concerned about the impact on their jobs.

“I am grateful to all the MSPs who have spoken up in support of our sector during these difficult months and to those who signed our petition outside Holyrood a fortnight ago.

“We commit to working with the Scottish Government to develop workable proposals that safeguard both livelihoods and the marine environment on which they rely.”

A number of politicians have also welcomed the Scottish Government’s about-face. Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) said: “While most islanders fully recognise the need to protect the seas that surround them, there was a clear consensus that the approach set out in the HPMA consultation was too blunt a tool to address such a complex issue.

“I am grateful to the Cabinet Secretary and the First Minister for listening closely to the concerns expressed, and for re-evaluating the Scottish Government’s approach.”

Meanwhile, Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society and Convener of the Marine Group at Scottish Environment LINK, the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, gave the announcement a more cautious welcome.

He said: “The evidence is absolutely clear that full protection of areas of our seas, like HPMAs, is a very effective conservation tool, which in turn can benefit the fishing industry. This approach is well established globally, and in line with the EU’s target of 10% strict protection by 2030. It must be matched if we’re to have hope of reversing the ocean emergency.

“While the scientific case for better marine management is inarguable, it’s also essential that the implementation is well managed and community voices are heard.

“The Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to build greater consensus across all stakeholders is welcome. There must be renewed commitment following the full analysis of all consultations. Our ocean needs action not words.

“What matters most is delivering ecological outcomes – and we must make progress urgently. It’s important that Scotland does not fall behind international standards.”

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