Proposals to implement Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) across 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026 will not be progressed, stated Net Zero Secretary Màiri McAllan, addressing the Scottish Parliament. Instead, plans ‘to deliver increased protection for Scotland’s marine environment’ will be revised, with a new pathway and timetable.
The Scottish Government intends to devote more time to working with industry, communities and conservation organisations, while supporting any groups that wish to pursue community-led marine protection in their local area on a quicker timescale, such as those initiatives in Lamlash Bay on Arran and St Abbs & Eyemouth in Berwickshire.
‘We are in the midst of a nature and climate crisis and we must be prepared to take action commensurate with the scale of that challenge. Failure to safeguard and improve the resilience of Scotland’s marine ecosystems to a changing climate risks the very basis on which our marine industries and coastal communities are built,’ Màiri McAllan said.
‘We chose to consult as early and widely as possible on the principles of HPMAs, with no pre-determined sites. It has always been, and continues to be, this government’s plan to work cooperatively with communities to identify how and where to enhance marine protection in a way that minimises impact and maximises opportunity.’
This decision follows a public consultation which ran earlier in the year on the principles of HPMA policy in Scotland, which attracted thousands of responses.
‘While we remain firmly committed to the outcome of enhanced marine protection, the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed,’ she stated.
‘I will outline more on our next steps after the summer recess, but I hope that it is clear that I am determined to protect our oceans in a way that is fair, and to find a way forward that ensures our seas remain a source of prosperity for the nation, especially in our remote, coastal and island communities.’
The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that an ongoing programme of work to implement fisheries management measures in existing MPAs where they are yet to be introduced, and to protect some of the most vulnerable Priority Marine Features outside of MPAs, will be taken forward as a priority.
A full response to the consultation and the next steps is expected to be published after Parliament’s summer recess.