Scottish Fishermen’s Federation opposes 'overly restrictive' protected area

A proposal by the Scottish government to create a Marine Protected Area in the Firth of Clyde is being met with opposition from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

Initially proposed in the summer of 2015, the proposed protected zone would limit fishing in a 150-square-mile (250-square-kilometer) area off the southern half of the Isle of Arran, located approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Glasgow. The South Arran Marine Protected Area seeks to conserve the maerl and seagrass beds that provide habitat for Norway and squat lobsters, sea cucumbers, crabs, ocean quahog and various other burrowing bivalves.

In an announcement made 26 January, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) called for members of the Scottish Parliament to reject the proposed version of the South Arran Marine Protected Area. SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said the proposal, as it stands, threatens the viability of the local fishing fleet.

“We have a purely political decision of an overly restrictive MPA made to appease the green lobby, rather than a common sense management arrangement that would have conserved vulnerable habitats whilst protecting fishing communities at the same time,” Armstrong said in a press release.

The Firth of Clyde, where the proposed MPA is located, once produced an abundance of herring and whitefish. As stocks declined over the past 30 years, commercial fishermen in the area turned toward fishing for prawns, scallops lobster and mussels, though some herring is still caught.

Dave Thompson, a Member of the Scottish Parliament representing the nearby communities of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said he is working to amend the MPA to accommodate some fishing in the area, rather than the near-blanket ban called for in the current proposal.

“I strongly support the need to protect our environment; however I expect a balance to be struck between meeting the needs of the fishermen, who have participated positively in the consultation process, with the need to protect our marine areas,” Thompson said.

The Scottish Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee meets Wednesday, 27 January to decide upon whether to recommend the MPA proposal to Parliament.


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