Sovereignty Stands with Our Coastal Communities in Opposing the Scottish Government’s HPMA Proposals

Sovereignty stands with the Scottish coastal communities in opposing the Scottish Government’s plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas.”

  • Motion passed at the Sovereignty Annual Congress, Dundee, Saturday, 22 April 2023.

The Scottish Government’s HPMA proposals will undoubtedly do major damage to coastal communities, if implemented; they must be fought and defeated.

As usual, our urban elite are showing blatant disregard for who make their living off the sea.  Those that produced this ill-thought out proposal might have spoken to the fishermen, those in aquaculture and salmon farmers, ahead of launching into HPMA without anything other tbhan dogma.

When the Scottish Greens took over the Scottish Government, we all thought they would content themselves with hugging trees. Well, we know better now.  The Greens appear actively to be plotting the destruction of the Scottish fishing industry, and represent a massive danger to coastal communities in Scotland.

In Shetland, it is estimated that seafood accounts for one-third of economic output.

The Scottish Government proposal would close at least 10% of Scotland’s seas to the fishing and aquaculture industries.  Large chunks of the marine estate have already been lost to oil industry infrastructure, with more still being lost to offshore windfarm development, even before HPMAs are considered.  The cumulative impact will be to close off around 50% of Scotland’s waters to fishing by 2050.

By contrast, the UK Government designated a mere five sites as HPMA trial projects, accounting for only 0.53% of English waters.

Such was the public outcry about the proposed HPMA around Lindisfarne, Northumbria that the UK Government was forced to back down. The public outcry was triggered by the total disregard shown for local fishing crews and their economic and social value to the island community.

Why shouldn’t we be outraged by the even greater disregard shown by the Scottish Government for our own fishing crews, and their economic and social value to our coastal and island communities?!

If fishing and aquaculture activity is outlawed on much of our seas, the effect will be hundreds of jobs lost, and millions of pounds of income lost.

The aims and objectives of the HPMA proposals have been described by the Shetland Fishermen’s Association as poorly defined, questionable, based on assumptions and ideology rather than scientific evidence or common sense.

The Scottish Government has failed to analyse adequately how such zones function in other parts of the world.

While the proposals state that Scottish Waters are “degraded”, the Government simply assumes that it is fishing that is responsible for the “damage”.  The evidence with regards to many key fish stocks is the opposite; stocks have increased in recent years.

It is laughable to assert that marine tourism could compensate for the loss of fishing and aquaculture.  Invites should go out to HPMA proposers to come to what can be quite inhospitable seas.  Good luck with that one!

Representatives of Shetland’s seafood sector and its network of supporting companies are united in their opposition to plans to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas.

Without supplying any evidence that the HPMA proposals will achieve their conservation aims, Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Seafood Shetland, salmon and mussel farmers, and companies in the seafood supply chain all argue that these zones will effectively destroy long-established industries. In Shetland, the sector’s demands are supported by LHD, Ocean Kinetics, Malakoff, Northwards, Pelagia Shetland, Shetland Seafood Auctions, HNP Engineers, Inverlussa, BK Marine, Blydoit Fish, Simpson Fish and Island Fish Shetland.

The job losses will be both in businesses both directly and indirectly affected by the proposals. When a Burra fishing boat was decommissioned, the folk who worked on the boat, and all those whose job in some way depended on the boat were photographed at the Lerwick harbour quayside; there was an incredible number of people in that photo.  No wonder Skippinish have released a song about these modern-day clearances.

While the Scottish Government has put out a consultation on the proposals, given their track record of ignoring responses they do not like, this is mere window-dressing.

The Shetland Fishermen’s Association argues that “Shetland’s fishermen have proven in the past that they are not opposed to sensible conservation measures, recognising that strong fish stocks and healthy marine ecosystems are in their own interest – and in the wider interest of sustaining our fishing community.”

According to Ruth Henderson, Chief Executive of Seafood Shetland, “The aquaculture industry is already highly regulated and has successfully operated in marine protected areas for years, so we adamantly oppose the introduction of a further protected area that could displace existing operations with no tangible benefit to the environment”.

Similarly, Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, has commented that “Marine biodiversity is vitally important, and this can be achieved through responsible stewardship of our seas.  There should be a focus on evidence and balance, and the case has simply not been made for HPMAs.”

He added that HPMAs go against the Government’s stated aim of growing the blue economy and playing a role in tackling global hunger and improving the nation’s health.

So, to sum up, HPMAs are being driven by politics and ideology, and are devoid of any environmental imperative or scientific backing.

The Scottish Government should stop undermining Scotland’s £650 million seafood industry, which provides essential employment in coastal areas, and provides healthy and highly nutritious food for Scottish dinner tables.

However, it seems that these factors can be ignored in the pursuit of vacuous conservation headlines.

The Scottish Greens and their SNP lackeys will not be happy till they have rowed Scotland back to the stone age.