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Conservation and communities key to MPA plan

Published: 18 Dec 2015 11:54

Environment Secretary confirms protection for “valuable marine environment”.

Measures to conserve Scotland's marine environment and protect important seabed features will be put in place, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead confirmed today.

The Marine Protected Areas, (MPAs) will improve marine conservation, for example by protecting kelp and rocky reefs to reduce coastal erosion, and seagrass beds which capture and store carbon and provide nursery habitats.

The Scottish Government designated 30 MPAs last year and subsequently consulted on the associated management measures for a total of 20 sites. Following feedback from stakeholders, a further consultation was undertaken on the proposed measures in four of the larger MPAs to consider further representations. In response to that consultation, Mr Lochhead has today announced further changes to three specific sites - Small Isles, Wester Ross, and Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura – in response to further feedback from the fishing industry. Management measures for all other sites consulted on will remain unchanged.

The MPA network covers only four per cent of Scottish inshore waters, and it is estimated that the direct economic impact on the fishing industry will be very low - around 0.25 per cent of its combined earnings. To help minimise any local impact, Mr Lochhead has announced a three point plan including:

• An environmental monitoring strategy, including opportunities for vessels to participate with funding of up to £500,000 over three years.
• Resources for diversification will be an early priority for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
• A commitment to undertake a robust economic study in a year's time to assess the impact on coastal communities.

Mr Lochhead said:

"We need to take decisive action to conserve our precious and valuable marine environment and biodiversity. Our MPAs are widely supported, and will protect important seabed features, such as maerl beds which provide habitat for scallops, and species such as horse mussels which improve our water quality.

"We have received a range of different views on our proposals from communities, stakeholders, and the fishing industry – including many in the static sector who support our proposals whilst others have expressed concern. As a result, I have made changes where I can to reduce any potential economic impact while still protecting the integrity of our initial proposals and desire to protect and conserve the marine environment for future generations.

"It's important that our management measures differentiate between high and low impact fishing activities. While our analysis tells us the overall impact on fishing will be low, at around 1.7 per cent of affected vessel landings, I have put in place measures to help mitigate any impact.

"We must balance the interests of protecting Scotland's marine environment with wider interests, particularly those of the fishing industry. However, failure to protect coastal areas would result in permanent damage to habitats and the fish stocks they support – that is the real risk for our coastal communities."

Notes to editors

The management measures for the Small Isles, Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPAs are subject to further changes and therefore further public consultation. That consultation opens today and will run until January 17th.

The revised draft Orders can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/mpanetwork/MPAMGT/protectedareasmgt/conservationorders

Further information on all the proposals can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/mpanetwork/MPAMGT/protectedareasmgt

The South Arran MPA and the application for a Clyde Regulating Order are two separate entities. They are subject to their own due process.