Scottish Government ditches flagship plans to protect Scotland's seas

Highly Protected Marine Areas had been proposed to preserve marine life in 10% of coastal waters.

Plans to implement flagship marine conservation areas have been scrapped following a consultation.

The Scottish Government had wanted to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) which would prevent all fishing and dredging in 10% of Scotland’s coastal waters. 

Earlier this year, the Government said proposals would not progress in their previous form but remained committed to further protecting marine life.

Following a consultation, net zero secretary Mairi McAllan announced that the revised plans would not progress.

On Tuesday, McAllan said: “In response to the findings of the consultation, and as I set out in Parliament earlier this year, the proposal to implement Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) across 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026 will not be progressed.

“My thanks go to everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation and to those who have continued to engage constructively with me and other ministers over the summer.” 

“The Government is firmly committed to protecting our marine environment and will continue to work closely with coastal communities and industries to protect Scotland’s seas for the benefit of all. As a priority this includes completing management measures for our existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) network and protecting our Priority Marine Features. 

“I am determined to protect our oceans in a way that is fair, and to find a way forward that ensures our seas remain a source of prosperity for the nation, especially in our coastal and island communities.”

Plans were previously halted after members of the fishing industry and some islander communities raised concerns about the plans.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “We welcome today’s confirmation by the Scottish Government that it will not seek to ban fishing in at least 10% of Scottish waters. But ministers need to maintain that position and not bring in similar measures through other routes.  

“What’s important is that we have an approach to conservation that balances marine protection with sustainable use, as the government’s existing policies should be aiming to achieve.” 

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “This analysis confirms that individuals were overwhelmingly opposed to the introduction of HPMAs, and the government was right to listen to these concerns and shelve the proposals.

“This confirmation is a huge relief for salmon farmers and all those who rely on our sector who were concerned about the impact on their livelihoods.

“I am grateful to all the MSPs who spoke up in support of our sector and rural Scotland.

“We once again commit to working with the Scottish Government to develop workable proposals that safeguard both livelihoods and the marine environment on which they rely.”

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