Ministers have ‘dropped the ball’ on Marine Protected Areas, says McArthur

15 Jun 2023

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today urged the Scottish Government to review, assess and adapt existing Marine Protected Area protections instead of imposing ‘arbitrary’ targets for new HPMAs that have met with strong opposition from island and coastal communities.

Speaking during General Questions, Mr McArthur said that ministers have ‘dropped the ball’ on the monitoring and management of MPAs, which are designed to further the aims of nature conservation and biodiversity while striking a balance with sustainable fishing and aquaculture practices. HPMAs, by contrast, would exclude almost all human activity. Bodies representing the fishing and aquaculture sectors have described the possible impact of HPMAs as ‘catastrophic’.

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

“Fishermen know better than anyone that protecting the marine environment is key to safeguarding stocks and the future of their industry. It is why they have been active in the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas over a number of years.

“Unfortunately, the Scottish Government has dropped the ball when it comes to Marine Protected Areas.

“While most stakeholders agree that MPAs require more work they do at least provide a basis on which to build protections that meet particular needs and circumstances. They have also been developed through consultation and collaboration.

“Scottish Ministers should undertake to review the MPA network, assess the evidence of their impact, identify where changes are needed and, if required, strengthen the provisions. This would be a far better approach than imposing arbitrary targets for HPMAs in timeframes that no-one believes are remotely realistic and are fiercely opposed by island and coastal communities.”