Borders fishermen add their voices to the debate – whilst Greens appear to detect cuttlefish in Lamlash Bay

Members of the Anglo Scottish Fishermen’s Association met Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton in Eyemouth at the end of May to discuss a range of issues, including the proposals to designate 10% of Scottish waters as HPMAs, which continue to draw widespread opposition from across the country.

Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton (centre) at Eyemouth harbour with members of the Anglo Scottish Fishermen’s Association.

Association secretary David Gilchrist told FN that the meeting had been very constructive. “We had fishermen from six of the local harbours in attendance: Eyemouth, Burnmouth, Seacliff, Dunbar, Port Seton and, just over the border, Seahouses. I invited Rachael Hamilton MSP as she is the shadow secretary for rural affairs and islands and has been leading the fight against HPMAs in Holyrood. I wanted her to hear, first hand, the concerns and views of the local fishermen.

“There was a lot of discussion on how this is just another example of the ever greater squeeze on the fleet. A lot of those attending expressed disbelief that city-dwelling politicians think they know better than the guys who fish the waters. We have stated all along that no one is better placed to sustainably manage the stock than the fishermen themselves. If there is no stock, there is no catch. No catch, no income; no income, no livelihood.

“It’s not just the livelihoods of fishermen at risk, it’s whole communities. Fishing is at the heart of coastal communities like these – it’s their history and their heritage, and the fishermen are not going to let a handful of city slicker, champagne socialists stop it from being their future!”

Green MSP Ariane Burgess, second from left, onboard the newly commissioned vessel operated from Arran by the NGO COAST.

Elena Balestri, science policy officer of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, also attended the meeting, giving a brief overview of the lack of any evidence base in the policy proposals.

After the meeting, Rachael Hamilton said: “Eyemouth harbour is home to a fishing community that has been supported by the industry for centuries. The arbitrary ban on fishing from the Berwickshire coast would devastate this community.

“The first minister said in April that HPMAs would not be imposed on any community that ‘vehemently opposes’ them. It was abundantly clear from this meeting that these proposals are ‘vehemently opposed’ by fishing communities across the country.

“We need the SNP and Green Party to go back to the drawing board and work with the Scotland’s fishing industry, rather than against it, to protect our marine environment.”

The Anglo Scottish Fishermen’s Association said that it had invited Mairi McAllan, the Scottish government minister with responsibility for the HPMA proposals, to the meeting, but that it had only received an automated email reply from her office.

The Scottish Greens and a number of NGOs have continued to push their agenda on the proposals. In a widely criticised video trumpeting the importance of HPMAs that was released last week, Green MSP Ariane Burgess continues to make the case that the local fishing community supports and benefits from the Lamlash Bay NTZ.

In the video, ‘Lamlash Bay: An Underwater Triumph’, she appears alongside several other politicians and campaigners, all of whom claim that local fishermen are ‘delighted’ with the benefits that the closure has provided. It has no comment at all from local working fishermen.

The video features what appears to be an American purse seine vessel, a US or Canadian vessel fishing for snow crab, and underwater footage of cuttlefish, alongside commentary about protecting Scottish seas from Ariane Burgess.

FN would love to hear from any cuttlefish fishermen working close to Lamlash Bay, but suspects the nearest is several hundred miles further south!

As many online commentators have pointed out, the video demonstrates the complete lack of understanding about fisheries from politicians based in urban constituencies, jumping on an anti-fishing bandwagon that claims to be about ‘sustainable fishing’ when in fact for many the agenda is to close fisheries down. It distracts, too, from the many issues and concerns on which the Greens and the industry have common ground.

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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