It is not hard to see the benefits of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - for the marine environment itself, and also for all of us who depend on it for food, leisure and jobs - so it was disappointing when leaders of the mobile fishing lobby launched a well-funded campaign against the Scottish Government’s MPA management proposals this summer. Many alarmist and socially divisive claims are being made by this campaign which bear no relation to the scope and impact of the Government’s draft Marine Conservation Orders (MCOs).
Under pressure, the Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) was obliged to hear additional submissions from some fisheries stakeholders (no one else was invited), a process which has delayed MCOs by at least three months. COAST, therefore, welcomes RACCE's letter to Richard Lochhead following its consideration of the MPA network, and its insistence that ‘full implementation of MPAs is brought into effect as soon as possible’ and no later than by the end of this parliamentary session (March 2016). This is especially important since the Scottish Government has a legal duty under Scottish, UK and EU legislation to have a well-managed network of MPAs in place by 2016. Time is running out fast.
To the credit of the Scottish Government, Marine Scotland and SNH thirty MPAs were designated last July in the seas around Scotland as a first step towards full MPA implementation.
To put things in perspective inshore MPAs will constitute just 3.5% of Scottish inshore waters. Management measures under the MCOs are expected to impact less than 3% of mobile fishing turnover (this is a worst case scenario which assumes no displacement of fishing effort to other fishing grounds). The locations of MPAs were carefully chosen to maximize conservation objectives and minimize the impact on current fishing activity. Even so, MPAs are expected to have a positive spill-over effect on fisheries by protecting complex seabed areas which serve as spawning and nursery grounds for our wider seas. They will also reduce gear conflict between the mobile and static sectors and boost the diversity and resilience of local economies by encouraging sustainable fishing and bolstering marine tourism and leisure industries. These all thrive upon a vibrant marine environment so it makes common sense to look after our marine life.
In extensive MPA consultations conducted by Marine Scotland the Scottish public has been very supportive of MPA designations and the sustainable management of our seas, which are a vital and extremely valuable public resource. As Richard Lochhead said at the recent Inshore Fisheries Conference: ‘Scotland's seas are not owned by any one individual or vested interest’. COAST believes it is time for balanced and enlightened self-interest for the benefit of future fishers and all marine stakeholders. MPAs are an important step forwards. Let’s get on with the job and be proud of them.
For more information please contact:
COAST (Community of Arran Seabed Trust)
Tel: 01770 600656
Scottish charity No. SC042088
Photo: Nudibranch photographed by Angus Robson, taken in the South Arran Marine Protected Area. See http://www.arransealife.co.uk/