November 4, 2015
Time this issue surfaced
Scotland’s coastline is very, very long. Including the islands, it runs to about 11,500 miles (much bigger than the rest of the UK) with nearly half the population living within 5km of it. And so it is a little surprising that the politics and the big points of contention concerning our marine environment (and by association, our coastal communities) don’t attract more national attention. One issue that’s generating a lot of heat amongst those who strive to earn their living from the sea is the designation of Marine Protected Areas. This debate could do with a wider airing.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have come under some heavy fire from some fishing representatives for potentially “devastating” socio-economic impacts, but we contend MPAs will help to recover our seas and boost the resilience of coastal communities in Scotland. In this blog, we explain why a lot of people around rural Scotland, including many progressive Scottish fishermen, agree: by looking after our marine environment, MPAs can be part of a rural and coastal revival.
It’s now not helpful pretending otherwise: MPAs have become a wee bit divisive. We’ve charted here, here, here and here the various twists and turns of developing a network of Scottish MPAs. But if you don’t have time to read, here’s a quick re-cap: these MPAs are ‘in the water’ (ie they were designated in 2014) but there is still no comprehensive fisheries management (except for emergency measures in South Arran and Wester Ross), which means that our fishing fleets continue to catch fish within these parts of our inshore waters just like before – using a variety of methods such as trawling, dredging, netting, creeling and angling. Some of these methods of fishing can damage seabed habitats if deployed in the wrong place – and that is having chronic consequences for the condition of our seas; over centuries of exploitation we have lost – and are still losing – vital seabed habitats which provide an underwater mosaic of nursery and spawning grounds for fish and a range of other benefits. This situation won’t change until fisheries management is developed via separate legislation. The Scottish Government is right now in the process of making this happen.
To read more about this issue click here