Joint warning from Shetland industry organisations on threat from HMPAs

Shetland seafood industries would be ‘crippled’ by the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) where all fishing and aquaculture activity is banned, with ‘hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of income lost’, according to a strongly worded joint statement from the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), Seafood Shetland and Salmon Scotland that was issued last week.

It argues that the introduction of HPMAs will effectively destroy long-established traditional industries, without any evidence that they will achieve their conservation aims.

The statement calls on individuals and organisations across Shetland to read and respond to the consultation on the proposals. It also calls for an urgent Shetland-wide assessment of the Scottish government proposals, ‘given the disproportionate impact they will have on a fragile community where seafood accounts for one- third of economic output’.

The three organisations outline four main objections to the proposals:

  • The aims and purposes of HPMAs are ‘poorly defined, deeply questionable and based on assumptions and ideology rather than scientific evidence or common sense, with the Scottish government failing to produce data on how such zones function in other parts of the world’
  • The proposals state that Scotland’s waters are ‘degraded’ and assume that fishing is responsible for ‘damage’, when many key fish stocks have in fact increased in abundance in recent years
  • No account has been taken of the cumulative impact of HMPA designation alongside offshore wind farm development – a spatial squeeze that, according to the report commissioned by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the NFFO last year, could close almost 50% of Scotland’s waters to fishing by 2050
  • The suggestion that marine tourism could replace the lost benefits of fishing and aquaculture ‘in some of the most inhospitable seas in the world’ is ‘beyond parody’.

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said: “Shetland’s fishermen have proven in the past that they are not opposed to sensible conservation measures, recognising that strong fish stocks and healthy marine ecosystems are in their own interest – and in the wider interest of sustaining our fishing community.

“However, proposals for HPMAs are being driven by politics and pledges, and are devoid of any environmental imperative or scientific backing.” Ruth Henderson, chief executive of Seafood Shetland, said: “The aquaculture industry is already highly regulated and has successfully operated in Marine Protected Areas for years, so we adamantly oppose the introduction of a further protected area that could displace existing operations with no tangible benefit to the environment.

“We would remind the Scottish government that the seafood industry generates around £650m into the Scottish economy, provides essential employment in rural areas, and delivers a healthy and highly nutritious protein into the food chain – factors that are often disregarded in the pursuit of vacuous conservation headlines.”

The statement from the three industry organisations is supported by LHD, Ocean Kinetics, Malakoff, Northwards, Pelagia Shetland, Shetland Seafood Auctions, HNP Engineers, Inverlussa, BK Marine, Blydoit Fish and Island Fish Shetland.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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