Marine / Fishermen squeezed out as Scotland’s seas become overcrowded

Scottish Government says the double crises of climate change and nature loss needs to be addressed

Map provided by Shetland Fishermen's Association

LOCAL fishermen are claiming they are being “crowded out” of their traditional grounds by a combination of renewable energy developments and what they call “excessive conservation measures”.

In a stark warning that legitimate livelihoods are under threat, Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has now published a map highlighting vast areas of Scottish waters that could be closed off or subjected to severe fishing restrictions.

Newly appointed SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said: “Fishing crews, so vital to Shetland’s economy, are being displaced from grounds where fishing has been going on for hundreds of years as part of a so-called ‘Just Transition’ that is anything but just.

“Sadly, a climate-smart industry that has among the lowest carbon footprints and lowest food miles of any food producer is in danger of being sacrificed for no good reason.

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson: ‘The so-called Just Transition is anything but just. Photo: hans J Marter?Shetland News

“Ministers urgently need to take stock of the situation and ensure that there is enough space for the fishing industry to continue to succeed and to support our community’s future.”

The SFA claims that Scottish ministers are proposing to compound the issue further by enhancing the existing fishing restrictions across Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) plus Special Areas of Conservation, which will mean more fishing grounds lost – and fishing efforts becoming more concentrated on the grounds that do remain accessible.

The 2022 Programme for Government commits to also designating 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas as ‘highly protected’ on top of the existing MPA network.

At the same time, the Scottish Government is encouraging offshore wind farm development by leasing seabed sites through its ScotWind and INTOG [Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas] auctions. The latter aims to attract developers of projects designed to decarbonise the offshore oil and gas industry.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


In a recently published fisheries management strategy the government was clear in its aims to “secure the future of our fishing industry for generations”.

Yet through their actions on protected areas and short-lived offshore renewable projects, ministers are inhibiting these aims, Lawson said.

“A well-managed and well-supported fishing industry could continue to provide for generations to come,” he continued.

“Coastal communities currently reap the benefits of the seafood brought back by our sustainable, modern, family-owned fishing fleet. Profits from offshore windfarms will disappear into the budgets of private, wealthy, multinational energy firms.

“There is space for fishing, marine protection measures, and offshore wind to all enjoy mutual futures.

“Our members accept and understand the way the world is going, but so far this ‘Just Transition’ is taking away vast fishing grounds – and giving nothing in return. That isn’t just, and it isn’t a transition.”


Responding, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it was vital that the double crises of climate change and nature loss is being addressed.

“Measures such as Marine Protected Areas are necessary to help safeguard marine biodiversity which ensures the fishing industry is sustainable for current and future generations,” he said.

“Renewable energy is a key requirement to enable the move to Net Zero, which in turn will support the resilience of marine habitats and the industries which they support.

“Stakeholders – including fishers – are consulted before a Marine Protected Area is introduced, in the development of for offshore renewables development and as part of the consenting process for determining each wind farm application.

“The development of management measures for MPAs is also based on sustainable use.

“Therefore where activities, such as fishing, do not impact on the protected features of the site they still can continue within the MPA.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.