Fishermen are warning that offshore developments and the expansion of marine protected areas could shut down more than half of Scottish waters by 2050.
A major new report for the industry, published today (Thursday), highlights the impact of “spatial squeeze” – which it says could bring “severe harm” to coastal communities.
It puts forward three future scenarios to demonstrate the scale of displacement the fishing fleet may face in the coming years.
According to the worst case scenario 260,000km2 – 56 per cent of Scottish waters – will be out of bounds by mid-century.
This is based on the expansion of offshore renewables, mainly windfarms, and the designation of at least 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas as Highly Marine Protected Areas (HPMAs) where fishing will be banned,
Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised 46 per cent of Scottish waters are likely to be lost by then, threatening the existence of fishing businesses.
Most of this area is expected to be lost by 2030 – and fishing is already excluded from around a third of Scottish waters.
The report, produced by consultants ABPmer for representatives including Shetland Fisherman’s Association (SFA), shows Scotland is set to lose far more of its waters to fishing when compared to the rest of the UK.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Elspeth Macdonald – of which the SFA is one of eight members – said of the report: “The outlook ahead is truly frightening.
“The report shows that expansion of both offshore renewable energy generation and marine conservation are being prioritised over fishing, despite fishing’s value in producing low carbon, healthy and sustainable food, contributing to our food security and supporting thousands of jobs in our coastal communities.
Despite its grim warnings the report also shows it is not too late for action to minimise the impact on fishing considerably, through much better planning and design and the implementation of mitigation measures.