Fishing leader warns of catastrophic impact of HPMAs

The row over controversial consultation on highly protected marine areas has intensified.

Fishing leaders have warned ministers the move, which could ban fishing in a 10th of Scottish waters, could have a catastrophic impact.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) says the strict conservation zones were far too big a price for fishermen to pay when they lacked ecological justification and were being introduced for purely political reasons. 

It has described the Scottish government’s timeframe of having HPMAs operating by 2026 as wholly unrealistic.

Scotland’s existing network of marine protected areas (MPAs) already covers 37 per cent of its seas.

SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “The Scottish government’s blue economy plans have been hijacked by the Greens and will push the fishing industry into the red.

“Fishing has a very low carbon footprint relative to other forms of protein, and the Scottish government’s own healthy diet guidance is for people to eat fish at least twice a week.

“And yet on top of the existing spatial squeeze caused by the dash to build huge offshore windfarms with little consideration for their impact on fisheries, the government wants to close a further 10 per cent of our waters to fishing vessels.”

 The SFF has instead proposed that two pilot aras are designated – one inshore, and one offshore – that can allow government and stakeholders to work together. 

Ms Macdonald added: “This extremely poor HPMA policy literally emerged from the blue – from the Bute House Agreement, in fact – when Scotland already has an extensive MPA network that the SFF and the fishing industry has been closely involved in creating.

“SFF is urging the Scottish government to have a radical rethink on this and at very least accept our alternative proposal for two pilot projects to assess the need, practicalities and costs/benefits in a proper scientific manner.”


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