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Marine / Scottish fishing federation keen for ‘meaningful dialogue’ with prospective new first minister

Salmon Scotland has also responded to Humza Yousaf’s election as SNP leader

Photo: Shetland News

FISHERMEN are urging Scotland’s prospective new first minister to work with their industry to help it flourish.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said it comes as “most key stocks are in excellent condition and being fished sustainably, yet government policies risk damaging climate-smart healthy food production”.

Chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said the efforts of skippers over many decades had put fishing in a strong position, as shown by the Scottish Government’s own figures on sustainability.

However, the proposed imposition of strict conservation zones – Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) – in 10 per cent of Scotland’s waters in the “absence of any clear ecological objectives, and the development of huge offshore windfarms”, would threaten the industry’s existence, she said.

Macdonald said she looked forward to “meaningful dialogue” with Yousaf on how government can support our industry now and in the future”.

“In particular, we would welcome a re-appraisal of the Bute House Agreement as it relates to fishing,” she said.

“We have highlighted our concerns about HPMAs and offshore windfarms, which a specialist study has shown could close more than 50 per cent of Scottish waters to vessels by 2050.

“And on Friday the Crown Estate Scotland announced another 13 offshore wind projects under the Innovation and Targeted Oil & Gas (INTOG) round east of Aberdeenshire which will effectively close a further 1600km2 of the sea for between 25 and 50 years at least.

“These projects could significantly impact the nephrops sector and further restrict the industry’s ability to operate profitably.”

She added: “Fishermen are not opposed to offshore wind in principle, but they need to be much more involved and listened to at the earliest planning stage to ensure that an industry with an already low carbon footprint – and one that is a vital source of healthy protein as well as being important for food security – is not sacrificed by the renewables juggernaut.”

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Speaking to Shetland News last week during the SNP leadership election campaign, Yousaf said HPMAs would not be “imposed” on any area of the country without consultation.

“I think we all accept there’s more that we need to continue to do to protect our biodiversity,” he said

“That’s got to be a priority for all of us, not just government but for everybody who lives here in Scotland.

“We already have protected marine areas – it comes to over 35 per cent of our seas.

“Highly protected marine areas is at a really early stage. We’re at consultation stage – we’ve not got the criteria let alone the site selection.

“So what I would certainly do as first minister, is make sure that whichever minister is leading that, and the government as a whole, really take into account the views of our fishing, coastal and island communities.

“We’re not going impose highly protected marine areas on a community without engaging with them and consulting with them.”

Meanwhile the national organisation representing the salmon sector has also welcomed Yousaf’s appointment.

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott, the former Shetland MSP, said: “The Scottish Government has long been supportive of our sector, which supports 12,500 jobs and is the UK’s biggest food export market, and we want to continue that positive relationship.

“Our members want to see a more streamlined licensing system for aquaculture, action to tackle the rural housing crisis, and a commitment that proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas are based on evidence, not ideology, with a thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities.

“Humza pledged to boost the availability of affordable housing in rural areas during his leadership campaign, and we look forward to seeing that promise being delivered.”

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