Inshore fishing as bad as aviation, says Green MSP
The Scottish Government has emphasised its “green agenda” for fishing policy during the annual Holyrood debate on Fisheries Negotiations.
The Western Isles Fishermen’s Association has warned that viability of processing businesses and 50 per cent of the island fleet’s earnings would be in jeopardy if commitments in the SNP-Green agreement are implemented.
Particular concerns include expanding Marine Protected Areas and enforcement of powers, initially in the Sound of Barra. A prospective ban on mobile gear within three miles of shore would greatly limit prawn and scallop landings.
However, fisheries minister, Mairi Gougeon, promised an expansion of MPAs. She said: “Our Scottish Marine Protected Area network already covers 37 per cent of our waters and we have committed to delivering fisheries management measures in existing MPAs by 2024.
“We will now go even further by designating ten per cent of our waters as Highly Protected Marine Areas by 2026. They will provide a higher level of protection and allow for additional recovery and enhancement of the marine environment”. She said they were determined to make Scotland “an international leader in that field”.
Highlands and Islands Green MSP, Ariane Burgess, said: “We must ensure better enforcement of, and higher fines for infringements into, Marine Protected Areas… We must establish a process that incentivises more selective and environmentally sensitive forms of fishing.
“Dredging and trawling release as much carbon into the water column as the entire aviation sector releases into the atmosphere. We must protect the blue carbon stored in our sea bed and increase its ability to act as a vital carbon sink”.
Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, urged the Scottish Government to “look to our fleets and communities for good practice” rather than impose blanket measures. “The Scottish Government must listen to the industry’s advice on good practice so that it can manage our seas in a way that enables our fishing communities to thrive, while protecting our precious environment and ensuring the long-term sustainability and future of the industry”.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan made no direct reference to concerns raised by the SNP-Green agreement. He said: “Labour shortages which were already a concern for both the catching and processing sectors, not least in my constituency, have been further exacerbated against the backdrop of a lack of seasonal workers across multiple industries”.
Mr Allan continued: “Scotland’s seas are estimated to hold more carbon than the total that is stored in our land resources, such as our peatland, forest and soils. However, I want to say that fishing deserves a future as part of all of this, in which designations are managed at a genuinely local level and in which the concerns of some of our most fragile communities are listened to”.
Highlands and Islands Tory MSP, Donald Cameron, stressed the diversity of the industry and while not underplaying the impact of leaving the EU, he believed “ many businesses seek greater opportunities beyond the EU and it is obvious that the UK and Scottish Governments should be working together to achieve these outcomes”.