AN independent report calling for a network of marine protected areas which could net the Scottish economy more than £10billion over 20 years has been welcomed by the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust.
Research carried out on behalf the Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce reveals that, while Scotland has a rich and diverse marine environment, much of it is in a state of decline and giving cause for concern.
The report comes just weeks before MSPs are presented with Government proposals for setting up of Marine Protected Areas and it highlights the social and economic benefits an ecologically coherent network of well managed MPAs would bring to Scotland’s industries and local communities,
Scientists from the Institute of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning at the Universidad de Oviedo in Spain identified the many economic benefits provided by Scotland’s territorial waters. They then assessed what would happen if the existing management regime continues and compared that to the impacts of different theoretical MPA network scenarios over the next 20 years.
They found the greatest economic benefits would come from a network of MPAs protecting a high proportion of habitats and species currently threatened or in decline. The study also highlighted significant benefits arising from the stopping of destructive activities, such as the use of bottom-towed fishing gear, that currently have a detrimental impact on some marine habitats and their dependent species.
Preservation of spawning and nursery grounds for fish was also identified by the researchers as an important step for achieving the largest economic benefits as fishermen would ultimately gain from the increased protection.
In welcoming the findings of the LINK study Charles Millar, director of the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, said it highlighted the need for greater protection of fish stocks and breeding grounds if the country is to maximise the potential economic opportunities of the sea.
He said: “SIFT welcomes this important independent report, which shows the huge potential economic benefits that a network of MPAs could make to Scotland. The report highlights the vast range of goods and services that healthy seas can bring to Scottish society: from biological remediation of wastes, to climate regulation to leisure and recreation services and the supply of sea-foods.
“If Scotland is to maximise the economic benefits of its seas we must promote their diversity to ensure resilience and balance our marine management goals so that the interests of all communities are taken into account.
“It is important to note that the highest overall benefits, approximately £10 billion to Scotland over 20 years, identified in the study occur when MPAs give the greatest protection to fish spawning and nursery grounds. This echoes SIFT’s analysis of its own proposals to create a Static Gear Reserve in the Firth of Clyde which aim to protect much of the sea bed from damaging trawled fishing gears in order to restore the ecosystem and regenerate marine employment in the area.”
The Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, an independent charity promoting an economically viable fishing industry for future generations, supports policies which conserve and restore the diversity of the marine ecosystem. It aims to assist the return of a more lucrative, sustainable and mixed economy featuring revived fin-fisheries, recreational sea angling, traditional shell fish creeling and scallop diving as well as leisure activities which rely on a healthy sea such as wildlife tourism.