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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.

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.”