Fish lobby urges min­is­ter to gather the facts

The Oban Times - - News -

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.’

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