Fish lobby urges minister to gather the facts
THE Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) is urging the Scottish government to delay a decision which they say will affect west coast fishing communities, writes Louise Glen.
In a letter to Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, is calling urgently for a socio- economic analysis of the government’s new arrangements for Marine Pro- tected Areas (MPAs). Mr Armstrong warned Holyrood about pushing through the measures without a proper assessment of how they would affect the fragile fishing economy.
The letter underlined that the SFF fully supports the concept of MPAs as an integral part of marine management, but argued that there needed to be a sensible balance between marine protection and minimising any impact on the sustainable harvesting activities of the Scottish fishing fleet.
However, under the new proposed management measures, many west coast inshore fishermen are fearful that their operations will no longer be viable and that they will be forced to fish in more exposed and stormier offshore areas.
The letter stated: ‘Among the logical objectives of deci- sion-making on Marine Protected Areas, two stand out: proper protection of the environment and minimisation of negative effects on marine productivity.
‘They are by no means mutually exclusive and both feature in the vision for the marine environment laid out in the Scottish National Marine Plan and its supporting legislation.
‘When the SFF publicly praised the unfolding Scottish government’s MPA procedure, we thought that a fit-for-purpose process for the selection of MPAs had been defined.’
But given the very real fears now raised by fishermen, the letter urged a delay in the decision-making until a full study is carried out on their impact.
The SFF said it is prepared to work closely with the Scottish government in conducting such a study.
Mr Armstrong’s letter continued: ‘There already exists clear methodologies for carrying out socio- economic analysis of sustainable livelihoods in communities,
‘ We reiterate our unswerving commitment to proper protection of the environment, via clearly understood processes, with proper account taken of the consequences of management actions.’