The views of Glaswegian school children were put above local fishermen’s in marine consultation, say campaigners.
SHAMED (Southern Hebrides Against Marine Environmental Designations) says the whole restrictions process has been put in place by politicians and interest groups from outside the area.
This, says SHAMED, means plans for Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are being imposed on those who have little economic understanding of the impact restrictions will have on fishing and fish processing.
Marine Scotland has officially put plans for conservation areas on hold till it considers information given at evidence in sessions with fishermen.
But campaigners note that a previous consultation report featured the opinions of Glasgow schoolchildren.
The youngsters featured in Marine Scotland’s June 2015 report, specifically the ‘Sunnyside Ocean Defenders’, whose young members said: “We think it’s a disgrace that less than one percent of our seas will be protected from fishing. We dread the dredgers… Our Scottish seas can recover but we need to leave them alone and let nature take its place.”
It also included a response from one youngster quoting a Native American chief.
SHAMED argues these views were given more prominence than those of the people who “face the disappearance of their livelihoods”.
There has been no change in policy on Marine Protected Areas (MPA) since a government spokesman told The Gazette (September 10): “We must protect our marine environment. Failure to protect these areas would mean permanent damage to habitats and fish stocks – that is the real risk for coastal communities.
“Fishermen from the Western Isles can still operate elsewhere. A balance must be struck to protect our environment and the communities that depend on it.
“The proposals were widely welcomed by many organisations, including creel fishermen.”
SHAMED formed in 2008 and gathered pace when plans for restrictions developed. Speaking for group, Angus MacLeod, said: “Many children in our island schools are from families who depend on fishing.
“The Barratlantic fish factory and main haulage provider, for example, is the island’s biggest private employer
“It is crucial to our economy. I would ask teachers in city schools to tell us what we are going to say to our children when jobs are lost in that factory and at sea.”