Summary of main issues
The Consultation attracted 306 responses from 6 separate respondent groups. These were all individual responses with no submissions of campaign text.
The responses reflect views from a range of interested parties, however the majority came from local residents. Other responses included fishing interests, community groups, non-governmental organisations and a local authority.
A close analysis of yes and no answers indicated the key issues that influenced responses to the consultation;
- The size of the proposed area which was impinging on the south shore, area popular with beach users, golfers etc. This led to a number of respondents (70 against designation and 15 in favour of designation) to specify that they would support designation if the proposed site was reduced to only include the northern side of the estuary.
- Fears that designation might restrict or deny public access to the entire proposed area were voiced by 84 respondents. These suggested that the designated area be more closely defined to the area where seals haul-out ( i.e. north shores).
- Concerns that designation could have a negative impact on local fishing interests were voiced by a number of local angling groups, netsmen and also from individuals who practice recreational fishing in the area. All these responses were strongly against designation.
Scottish Government response to concerns raised
Marine Scotland in consultation with SMRU and SNH produced a smaller site more closely aligned to the seal haul-out itself. The designated area is now confined to the north bank as can be seen in Figure 4.
This means that any limitation on access and potential restrictions to any previously carried out activities will effectively only apply to the small area of the north shore of the estuary where the main body of seals are located and to periods when seals are present there.
If the site is designated, fishing access to the rest of the estuary and lower river will remain unaffected with limitations only applied to the mouth of the estuary where the actual seal haul-out is located (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Revised site boundary in relation to the Ythan fisheries