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by Liam Kirkaldy
06 August 2015
Fishing body hits back at claims new Marine Protected Areas could risk lives

Fishing body hits back at claims new Marine Protected Areas could risk lives

Claims that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will damage the fishing industry and could even lead to deaths are “foolhardy” and do not represent the majority of industry views, according to the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation (SCFF).

The Scottish Government has proposed 30 new MPAs aimed at protecting vulnerable environments.

SCFF National Coordinator Alistair Sinclair hit back following warnings from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), as well as the Scottish Conservatives, over the effect new MPAs will have.

The BBC reported SFF chairman Bertie Armstrong as saying: “It could be, and I'm choosing my words carefully here, devastating. If you want to take a local community and result in a clearance, this is the right way to go about it.”

Meanwhile Calum MacLachlainn, of Isle of Mull Scallops, said: “If they take away our winter grounds, we'll be forced out into areas which are more exposed. The way the Scottish Government is going with the MPAs and listening to the anti-fishing lobby, I think we'll see funerals before someone changes their mind.”

But Sinclair questioned these claims, telling Holyrood: “Government stats show creel fishermen make up about 80 per cent of the inshore sector. Without stating that the SFF are an irrelevance, they do seem to think they are masters of all that happens around the coastline of Scotland, and that is a nonsense, in particular in inshore waters.”

He also called into question claims that the new protections could lead to deaths.

Sinclair said: “The notion that people will die at sea is a foolhardy claim, because you just don’t go to sea whenever it’s poor weather and there is a likelihood that your crew’s safety will be compromised.

“We all like to come home at night and see our families. The fishing industry is quite a dangerous industry and skippers need to remember that they are duty bound by law to respect the safety of their crew members.”

The Scottish Conservatives responded to lend their backing to Armstrong, claiming the fishing industry had been widely ignored by Government ministers.

Environment spokesman Jamie McGrigor said: “Like the Scottish fishing industry, I support the concept of MPAs. But I share the astonishment and anger of west coast fishermen that the compromises which they thought had been agreed through the consultation process were disregarded when the MPA proposals were published.

“I have always argued that MPAs need to be proportionate and must allow existing sustainable fishing activities to continue. Fishermen thought that the SNP supported this too, but its proposed new MPAs have patently failed to achieve this.”

But Sinclair also questioned McGrigor’s comments, telling Holyrood, “Jamie McGrigor is only supporting one section of the industry. Now as a list MSP he should be looking after the interests of all, not just the select band.”

Sinclair’s comments follow claims, reported by the BBC, that creel fishermen had been subjected to intimidation after speaking out in favour of the conservation measures.

He said: “I am glad to say that Richard Lochhead has recognised that we are a good solid body of fisherman now that have aspirations and we have concerns.

“I think this process of creating Marine Protected Areas has made many of our members rather nervous due to the fact we don’t have the management plans in place, however I have been assured that the opportunity to put management plans together would be stepped up between now and the actual implementation, which may allay some fears.”

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