The Scottish Government is consulting on proposals to ban commercial and recreational fishing in 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas.
The highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) are designed to offer enhanced protection for fragile ecosystems.
Through the Bute House Agreement, Scottish ministers have committed to applying HPMAs to 10% of Scottish seas by 2026.
The government has launched a public consultation on the plans, which is open until April 17.
But the fishing industry in Skye say they were blindsided by the marine protection plans. They fear HPMAs could destroy local businesses and communities.
Highland fisherman must not ‘suffer’ from new legislation
Local councillor John Finlayson has taken up the cause. He wants Highland Council to provide a “robust response” to the consultation.
“A number of Skye fishermen have contacted me, concerned about the setting up of HPMAs in Scottish waters,” said Mr Finlayson. “This is clearly of concern to individual fishermen and fishing communities along the west coast.”
Cllr Finlayson expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government did not advertise the consultation more fully when it launched in December. He says neither he nor the local fishermen were aware of the proposals.
If agreed, the HPMAs would ban all fishing activities, including leisure, and ‘manage levels’ of swimming, snorkelling and windsurfing.
Cllr Finlayson urged anyone with an interest in marine activity to make their views known, and said the council’s own response would be robust.
He added: “While we need to consider all our environmental responsibilities we must also ensure that fishermen, fishing communities and other marine operators who have invested heavily in their livelihoods, do not suffer from legislation that does not take account of the history, culture and importance of all maritime jobs, in our important coastal communities.”
Council urges people to share their views
Councillor Ken Gowans, who chairs the council’s economy committee, offered reassurance that the proposals are at an early stage. However, he admitted that HPMAs could apply to inshore areas around the Highland coastline.
“This may have implications for local businesses and communities, especially those who rely on making a living from fishing, aquaculture, and marine tourism activities. Now is the time to raise concerns and make your views known.”
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