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Thursday 25 July 2024
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Marine / Council fundamentally opposed to HPMA proposal

SHETLAND Islands Council has raised serious concern in the consultation process on the controversial Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) proposal and has now submitted a response strongly opposing the Scottish Government initiative.

In the eight page document, the council expresses the view that the HPMA process, if implemented, will “impact significantly upon our residents, communities and industries that rely on the sea for their livelihoods.”

A motion by development committee chair Dennis Leask to oppose the proposal was passed without much debate in the council chamber earlier this month.

At the time, councillors were informed that council officials were already in the process of drafting a strongly worded response.

The government’s aim is to see at least 10 per cent of Scottish waters designated as HPMAs by 2026 where any fishing and aquaculture activity would be banned.

However, in its response the council said that “given the lack of effective prior engagement” and the “absence of a clear evidence base” it was seriously concerned what impact the proposal could, potentially, have on the islands’ economy.

The council also makes the point that it believes the potential implications of the HPMA proposal have not been fully considered or communicated and finds it “exceedingly difficult to fully engage with the concept (…) without being aware of what particular areas of Shetland’s marine waters these areas will cover or what particular areas Marine Scotland are minded to identify”.

With regards to the likely economic consequences the document goes on to say that it is thought that the designation would have a significant impact on local communities.

“This is of paramount importance when taking account of the economic and community value which our existing commercial fishing, inshore fishing and aquaculture industries provide to Shetland and its communities,” the consultation response document reads.

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“Additionally, such designations also have the risk of impacting upon the development of future industries such as marine renewables and cabling, seaweed cultivation, our move towards net zero and low carbon technologies, our existing and future expansion of ports and harbours and our aspirations for fixed links to our island communities.

“The sectors referenced above are part of the extensive marine economy in Shetland – the most recent economic estimates suggest an overall value of £470m from the combined outputs of fish catching, aquaculture, processing, marine engineering and sea transportation, equal to over one third of Shetland’s entire economic output.”

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald. Photo: Shetland News

With regards to process, the document states: “We are also very concerned that the HMPA process has reached this stage, with minimal prior awareness raising or opportunities to raise questions and concerns through the prior engagement of Shetland Islands Council.

“We also note the engagement that is proposed to occur during the site selection process, but we feel that this will happen at too late a stage, as the concept will have already been agreed.”

Council leader Emma Macdonald said: “We have significant concerns about the proposed national HPMA policy framework and how this will operate in the waters around Shetland, which are a hugely important resource for so many local economic sectors.

“Our future ambitions in many areas, including fishing, aquaculture, tunnels and renewables, will also be impacted by these far reaching policy proposals.

“Shetland is a vastly experienced marine community, with considerable knowledge in licensing, regulation and management of a range of inshore and offshore activities.

“Like other industry representatives, we strongly oppose these proposals and would encourage proper engagement to inform any future marine planning discussions.”

The full SIC response can be read here.
The Scottish government consultation is open until 27 April and can be found here.

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