PLANS to protect the waters around Scotland from over fishing, pollution and exploitation will only work if there is sensible and legally-binding cross-sector management of Marine Protected Areas.
In response to proposals from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, for the setting up of 33 MPAs in territorial waters, the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust has called for their management to be enshrined in statute if they are to have true long-term economic benefits for coastal communities.
SIFT is concerned the proposals as presented to MSPs currently contain no commitment to enforcing protection with legislation. As far as fishing is concerned it is all voluntary.
Charles Millar, Director of SIFT said: “While we welcome the proposed designation of Marine Protected Areas, and look forward to the contribution they will make to ensuring rich and diverse seas capable of supporting a wide variety of economic activities to the benefit of coastal communities, there needs to be more robust measures to prevent unsustainable fishing.
“In particular the management of commercial fishing activity should be legally binding. At the very least, where the management regime relies on voluntary agreements, they must be underpinned by a robust monitoring system that has been agreed from the outset. Should there be instances where these agreements are not working then legislative arrangements should be utilised.”
SIFT aims to advise SNH and Marine Scotland that any management measures relating to commercial fishing activity within MPAs should be implemented through statute, for example using the powers conferred through the 1984 Inshore Fishing Act.
The independent charity, which promotes 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.
While SIFT recognises the huge potential advantages a network of MPAs could make to Scotland it maintains the greatest economic benefits will come from legally binding protection of fish spawning and nursery grounds.
Among the activities SIFT would like to see is an end to 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.
SIFT believes protection of spawning and nursery grounds for fish is essential if Scotland is to create a sustainable industry which could provide the largest economic benefits for fishermen and coastal communities in the long term.
For more information about the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust please visit www.sift-uk.org