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Marine / NAFC attracts £190,000 in funding for new marine planning project

Could the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway take on an extra role as a national research and management centre post-Brexit?

A RESEARCH post will be created at the fisheries college in Scalloway as part of a new project aimed at developing and testing new approaches to marine management.

Shetland UHI is receiving £190,000 from government body UK Research and Innovation to carry out the three-year project, which is being led by the University of Portsmouth.

Locally the project will be coordinated by Shetland UHI’s marine spatial planning manager Rachel Shucksmith.

The NAFC Marine Centre, which has now become the Scalloway campus of the newly formed Shetland UHI, has a long track record of marine planning.

Earlier this year a regional marine plan guiding the management and development of Shetland’s coastal waters was put in place, which was the first of its kind in Scotland.

Marine planning aims to protect species and habitats whilst creating opportunities for economic growth and safeguarding community interests.

Shucksmith said the new project – which is costing £1.5 million as a whole – involves a number of partners across the UK, with Shetland one of the case studies.

“The thing we will be responsible for in Shetland is to look at across all of the ways that we manage the marine environment, what opportunities there are to increase representation of different community values,” she said.

“We’re going to be looking at where knowledge could be put in, so that decisions could be more inclusive, and take into account a greater range of the types of views within communities, which will obviously be quite different in Portsmouth than in Shetland.”

Some the other organisations in the project will take a more creative approach to community consultation, such as through “digital storytelling and forum theatre”.

Shetland, though, will focus on the more technical side of marine planning.

She said the NAFC Marine Centre was “quite fortunate” to be selected for the programme as there was a much higher number of applicants than anticipated.

Shucksmith said this was likely to be because European funding has shut off due to Brexit.

Recruitment for new, two year post-doctoral researcher post, meanwhile, is expected to start shortly, with the aim of having the successful person in post by October.

There are other projects which have similarly received funding from UK Research and Innovation, including a scheme to investigate how and where meadows of seagrass can be restored in coastal waters.

UK government minister for Scotland David Duguid said: “Climate change poses a real risk to the ecosystems in our waters and livelihoods in coastal communities.

“These UK Government funded research projects will help support a sustainable future for Scotland and the wider UK’s marine economy – a sector which is crucial for jobs, businesses and livelihoods.

“As we prepare to host COP26 in Glasgow, building back greener from the pandemic is a UK Government priority and I’m pleased to see so much Scottish expertise involved in these projects.”