Scottish mussels celebrate after being recertified with the MSC enhanced certification The Scottish Government will assess the social impacts of Inshore Marine Protected Areas and proposed Priority Marine Feature Management Areas

The Scottish Government will assess the social impacts of Inshore Marine Protected Areas and proposed Priority Marine Feature Management Areas

The Scottish Government has stated that it is committed to protecting and enhancing the nation’s diverse marine ecosystem but will also access the social impacts of Inshore Marine Protected Areas and proposed Priority Marine Feature Management Areas.

At the of June this year, before the Parliamentary Summer Recess, the Scottish Government was forced to back down from plans to impose highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) in 10 percent of Scotland’s waters by 2026. The proposals championed in the Bute House Agreement, a coalition agreement between the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens, was met with fierce opposition from coastal communities and their representatives. Though Minister for Net-Zero, Máiri MacAllan, announced the step-back, she refused to step down from the imposition of some form of HPMAs on coastal communities, but cited that there would be deeper engagement with those who would be affected by future plans.

In a recent Scottish Government Blog, the ideal of developing Priority Marine Feature Management Areas has been raised, and the question is, will this be the successors to the Government’s HPMA plans?

The blog reads:

“Scotland has some of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world. The Scottish Government is committed to protecting and enhancing these to ensure they are safeguarded for future generations to enjoy and to support marine industries which rely upon them. Marine Protected Areas are one tool that the Scottish Government uses to seek to ensure that some of the most vulnerable species and habitats are restored and resilient to future changes by removing the pressures that affect them.

The existing MPA network consists of a range of sites both inshore and offshore in Scottish Waters. We are currently developing the fisheries management measures required to manage Scotland’s existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network and to protect the 11 most vulnerable Priority Marine Features.

Ahead of the planned public consultation on proposed fisheries management measures in 2024, we’ve commissioned consultants to undertake a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the draft proposals. This will be undertaken in line with new guidance, developed with stakeholders in 2022, to improve the way local and social impacts are accounted for when we carry out SEIAs.

Following this new approach, we wanted to better understand how coastal and island communities value their marine environment and the benefits that it provides to local communities and businesses, so worked with contractors to arrange research events across Scotland. These events, held in July 2023, were aimed at gathering information on the possible social and economic impacts to coastal and island communities from the proposed fisheries management measures.

Events were held in Lerwick, Stornoway, Peterhead, Ullapool, Oban and Troon and included public drop-in sessions and dedicated workshops. In total over 300 individuals came along to discuss their thoughts with the team and provide input on the possible social impacts of marine protection. The workshops were attended by representatives from community councils, commercial fisheries, aquaculture, local authorities, tourism providers, eNGOs and academic researchers.

At these events, Scottish Government shared information about the types of MPAs and Priority Marine Features management areas in the local area and the possible fisheries management measures.

Attendees spoke about what they value in their local area, their connections to the marine environment and how they felt management of fisheries for biodiversity in their area would impact their lives and communities, both positively or negatively.

A Social Impact Assessment will be produced based on the input from stakeholders and will inform and accompany the SEIA. These reports and full details of the proposed fisheries management measures will be subject to public consultation in 2024.”

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