Banff and Buchan MP urges rethink of Highly Protected Marine Area plans
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David Duguid MP has written to Scottish Government minister Mairi Gougeon MSP urging her to rethink proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) following concerns that they restrict twenty times as much as the UK Government’s plans for English waters.
In his letter to the rural affairs secretary, Mr Duguid has hit out at the impact the proposals will have on Scotland’s fishing fleet and has asked why HPMAs in Scottish waters are being implemented on an immediately permanent basis and not on a trial/pilot period like the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Banff and Buchan MP recently met Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) chief executive Elspeth Macdonald and Ian Gatt of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association in Fraserburgh to discuss the issue, which he says will “encroach on sustainable fishing activity and local coastal communities and their economies”.
Mr Duguid has also asked for evidence on why the amount of HPMA coverage in Scottish waters (10 per cent) needs to be almost twenty times as much as the UK Government plans for English waters (0.53 per cent).
Industry leaders have already warned that 37 per cent of Scottish waters are already protected under the existing MPA network and that there is no justifiable scientific rationale behind the proposals which would squeeze fishing vessels out of large areas of sea.
In his letter, Mr Duguid spoke of the “significant concern” among the fishing community in Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Macduff.
It said: “As well as other uses of the marine environment, such as offshore wind, which have the potential to encroach on sustainable fishing activity and local coastal communities and their economies, the Scottish Fishing Industry have also expressed concerns regarding Scottish Government plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).
“As you know, fishing is a key sector in my constituency and boats, which leave the ports of Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Macduff, sail all around the coast of Scotland and beyond. Understandably, there is a significant amount of concern being raised about these plans.
“The industry is not fundamentally against the principle of conservation but feel that plans must be based on a sound scientific basis and not just on ideological grounds.
“I would therefore be grateful for answers to the following questions:
“What evidence exists to suggest that the amount of HPMA coverage in Scottish waters (10%) needs to be almost twenty times as much as the UK Government plans for English waters (0.53%)?
“Why are the proposed HPMAs in Scottish waters being implemented on an immediately permanent basis and not on a trial/pilot basis?
“What means of assessment will be conducted to measure the effectiveness (or otherwise) of these plans.
“What key performance indicators will be used to indicate that ‘conservation aims’ have been achieved?
“What baseline data has been gathered and for how long?
“How much of the 10 per cent of Scottish waters planned for HPMA status is already assigned as MPA?
“What assessment has been made on the economic impact on the Scottish fishing industry and coastal communities?
“Finally, what direct engagement has the Scottish Government had with fishing industry representatives to ensure an adequate level of input to this decision has been received from them?”
In other news: SNP Leadership candidate says HPMA status should be scrapped