A CCN statement on Scottish HPMAs

The Coastal Communities Network (CCN) has submitted its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). Developed and agreed upon in consultation with its members, CCN’s response highlights the need for HPMAs to be nested within a comprehensive system of spatial management for Scotland’s inshore waters.

While CCN supports the use of HPMAs as one tool to facilitate ecosystem recovery, we have expressed our concerns that if the selecting and siting of  HPMAs is pursued in isolation of other management measures, then they may have unintended consequences. For example, the displacement of fishing effort elsewhere may put greater pressure on seabed habitats and marine life outside protected areas.

For that reason, while we acknowledge the urgent need for action to recover the health of Scotland’s seas, we consider the use of HPMAs as premature. We strongly advocate for plans which focus on addressing immediate threats to marine biodiversity, such as open cage salmon aquaculture and bottom-contact fishing, whilst incentivising the use of well-managed low impact activities, such as creel and hand dive fishing, and shellfish and seaweed aquaculture.

CCN understands that fishermen are angry and fearful about the proposed HPMAs. We do share these concerns and do not want additional protection to undermine the fishing interests within our own local communities, however we also have to acknowledge that the current management of our inshore fisheries is unacceptable, and that this needs to change if we are to get serious about reversing biodiversity decline.

We hope we can all agree that a healthy marine environment is essential for the long-term viability of coastal communities. CCN is committed to working with fishers and all others to find solutions that balance protection our marine environment and the need for livelihood opportunities.

In the meantime, we urge the Scottish Government to reflect on how to recover our marine environment in a way which is founded on an ecosystem approach and centres the needs of coastal communities.

CCN’s submission is a timely reminder of the importance of taking a holistic approach to marine ecosystem recovery and enhancement. We call on other interested parties to read the full consultation documentation and submit their own response by the new deadline of April 17th.

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