Duncan Macinnes of Western Isles Fisheries Association (WIFA) told Rural Affairs minister Richard Lochhead that any more MPAs risked driving younger fishermen and their families away from the islands and that they did not think the Government was listening to the large majority on the matter.
Once again the commercial sector consider themselves the ‘large majority’ and seem to forget that they are exploiting a public resource which needs to be managed to the benefit of the entire population of Scotland and not just a single sector.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Environment Secretary had a productive meeting with representatives of the Western Isles fishing industry today. He explained the Scottish Government needs to balance the interests of protecting Scotland’s marine environment with wider economic interests, particularly those of the fishing industry.
“Our proposals on new designations and management measures are based on evidence that we need to act to protect our marine environment and biodiversity.
“Failure to protect these areas, in the longer term, would result in permanent damage to habitats and the fish stocks they support – that is the real risk for our coastal communities.
“While the proposals would mean a restriction of fisheries within certain areas, fishermen from the Western Isles will still be able to operate in other neighbouring areas.”
The spokesman said the assessment carried out before the Scottish Government put forward their management plans showed a ‘modest impact’ on the local economy.
He went on: “Mr Lochhead made clear he is very willing to hear more evidence from local businesses and fishermen in relation to this issue. We have already extended the consultation period in response to concerns expressed by some fishermen and are considering the responses we have received.”
Meanwhile Mr Lochhead confirmed at the meeting that he will delay any decision on MPAs to allow the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment committee to hear evidence on the issue at its meeting on 23rd September.