MPA concerns raised by MSP in Parliament

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MSP Rhoda Grant has raised concerns in Parliament about how Marine Protected Areas (MPA) will impact fishing communities.

The Highlands and Islands Labour MSP asked Minister for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, what steps the Scottish Government will take to mitigate the effects on these communities and what socioeconomic impact assessments the government has carried out of the new Marine Protected Areas and how many jobs will be lost on shore and at sea in these locations as a result of their designation.

Mrs Grant followed up her question by asking if the Minister would award appropriate compensation to workers affected by ensuing job losses and if he will set up a PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) in each of the affected areas.

Commenting afterwards, Mrs Grant said: “I again tried to emphasise to the Minister the impact these MPAs could have on our fishing industry.

“Industry leaders have condemned the new restrictions stating that they go well beyond what was necessary to meet the biodiversity aim and will cost jobs in our fragile communities.

“The Minister chose to ignore the industry experts and also the fishermen who have protected the marine environment for generations, and pressed ahead with all but three of the MPAs.

“He appears not to grasp the importance of the fishing industry to island and fishing communities.

“Fishing is one of the last sustainable industries on the islands and the implementation of these MPAs could pose a threat to the fishing industry and island communities.

She continued: “Because these MPAs will become a reality I asked him to set up PACE groups in the affected communities in order to provide alternative employment for those affected. He gave me no such commitment, ignoring the points I made.

“People living in these fragile communities are committed to the environment, that is why we have fantastic biodiversity which these designations seek to protect.

“However, people are also an endangered species in these areas and need to be afforded protection. It would not be onerous for him to compensate them and commit to providing alternative employment as recognition of their role in protecting our environment.”

In response to Mrs Grant’s questions, Mr Lochhead said: “Rhoda Grant speaks of the fishing industry. I point out to her that there are many sectors in the fishing industry, of which, some believe that we are not going far enough with our proposals and some believe that we are going too far.

“I have listened very closely to the concerns that have been expressed, which is why we have had substantial consultation over many months on the proposals, as have the Parliament’s committees.

“I announced a three-point plan covering environmental monitoring, including £500,000 of support for vessels to participate in that monitoring over three years.

“We are also monitoring the economic impact and taking other mitigation measures.