THE SCOTTISH Government’s U-turn on highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) is a “cautious win” for Shetland fishermen, according to the local industry association.
There remains concern from Shetland Fishermen’s Association, however, that an alternative could be worked up by government which may end up being similar to HPMAs.
SFA officer Sheila Keith said one fisherman told her after news of the U-turn that the government had only kicked HPMAs into the “long grass” for a while.
On Thursday the Scottish Government announced that after consulting communities it would be dropping its proposal for HPMAs.
This would have covered ten per cent of Scotland’s waters, and in these areas activities like fishing would be prohibited.
The aim is to protect the marine environment, but there was cross-party criticism of the proposed policy given the effect it would have on coastal and island communities.
Keith commented that the SFA welcomed the news, but said it was a case of wait and see regarding what the government’s alternative “pathway” will be.
She said the government has “basically just bought themselves time”.
Fellow SFA officer Daniel Lawson added: “The feeling often among fishermen is that they don’t get many wins from government these days.
“This is a win and something to be happy about, but only cautiously and probably not for very long until we see what they come with.”
Shetland Islands Council meanwhile wrote in the government consultation that it opposed HPMAs given the impact on the fishing industry.
Speaking on Thursday depute leader Gary Robinson said the development was “positive”.
“In saying that, I don’t think anybody is against protecting the environment, but it’s better that it’s done in dare I say a considerate way,” the councillor added.
“I think we’ve got a really good track record in Shetland of using the science to lead on that, rather than any sort of arbitrary measures.”
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Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan said: “We chose to consult as early and widely as possible on the principles of HPMAs, with no pre-determined sites.
“It has always been, and continues to be, this government’s plan to work cooperatively with communities to identify how and where to enhance marine protection in a way that minimises impact and maximises opportunity.
“Therefore, while we remain firmly committed to the outcome of enhanced marine protection, the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed.”
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