The Fishing Daily Podcast Series 3 Episode 08 – Elaine Whyte from the Clyde Fishermen’s Association and Duncan MacInnes of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association talks to Oliver McBride about the devastating impacts highly protected marine area (HPMA) plans will have on Scotland’s coastal communities.

HPMA Plans Devastating to Scotland's Coastal Communities

by The Fishing Daily Podcast in Audio

Highly Protected Marine Areas or HPMAs have become a hot topic in Scottish politics as an internal rift arises in the Holyrood government departments.

A surprising number of Scottish National Party (SNP) MSPs have declared that they cannot stand by their party’s agreement with coalition partners, the Scottish Green Party, who want to impose HPMAs on Scotland’s coastal communities. The SNP had made the agreement with the Greens in order to cement the coalition government under the Bute House Agreement, but for some party members including former Fisheries Minister, Fergus Ewing (Inverness and Nairn) and former Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoc) the agreement is a death knell for traditional costal communities that rely on fishing, and they have been vocal about it in parliament.

Opposition parties have also been hammering at the SNP over the plans with Conservative and Unionist MSPs, Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire), Brian Whittle (South Scotland) Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries), along with Liberal Democrat, Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands), and Scottish Labour’s Rhonda Grant (Highlands and Islands) amongst many, demanding that the Scottish government make a U-turn over the proposal, with UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak offering the same advice.

Oliver asks Elaine and Duncan what makes the proposals for HPMAs so controversial and what is the feared outcome if the Scottish government’s plans go ahead?

Elaine says, “I think I think the first thing to say is that fishermen are not in any way opposed to sensible conservation and I think the opposition, from my perspective is to arbitrary targets which have been developed as part of a political agreement which are now being kind of imposed from a top-down position, and I think what we have to keep in mind is that fishermen have been involved in a number of conservation projects like MPA’s, etcetera for the last, almost eight years, really, and they have to be evaluated for a sense check. I think where a lot of fishing communities are coming from is that we have already sacrificed a lot for conservation, and we need to make sure that what we’re doing is is the right thing before we proceed on with more arbitrary targets.”

Elaine explains that her members fear that their communities will face annihilation and refers to the introduction of Marine Protected Areas and fishing area closures that have deeply affected fishermen in the Firth of Clyde.

Duncan tells us that fishermen have been left hung out to dry by previous government policy on marine protected areas and an assessment on the impact they had must be carried out before making any further policies. He says:

“Well, certainly the way we view it as an industry is that highly protected marine areas were developed between the SNP and the Green Party as part of the Bute House Agreement. There was no consultation whatsoever with community going be impacted on and it was purely a politically driven motive or policy decision that had no scientific background research into it and say that 10% of Scottish seas should be designated, you know, with no scientific evidence to back up that, was clearly the wrong way to develop any policy, in particular, after the industry, as Elaine has said, had been for even 10 years, probably going back 10 years from about 2013 to 2016 and consultation with government, before marine protected areas were introduced and the final outcome of that was the worst-case scenario for the fishing industry and despite having been told that they would be assessed after six years, that assessment hasn’t been done.

“As far as the industry is concerned, there has been no benefit whatsoever to communities and after the first tranche of MPA’s that were introduced in about 2016. So, before any other designations are even considered, we must have accurate in independent and impartial assessment on of what has been done in the past, and that’s simply hasn’t been done. What has been done is a a checkbox exercise by government to suit their own needs.”

Podcast music used with permission of In Their Thousands – Acrasia © In Their Thousands 2018. Check out Spotify and visit their website.

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