The Scottish Government has considered all 222 consultation responses received. Support for the four sites was high with approximately two-thirds of respondents ‘strongly supporting’ designation. Only around 5% of respondents ‘strongly opposed’ designation. Greatest opposition was noted for the Sea of the Hebrides pMPA although no specific reasons for this have been apparent through analysis of the responses.
Many respondents noted that the designation of these sites will contribute to the Scottish MPA network and to Scotland’s reputation as a leader in environmental protection. It was also noted that marine protection helps promote tourism in coastal regions, which in turn supports the local economy.
Some respondents who opposed the sites did so on the basis that the designation of these sites would negatively impact fishing opportunities if fisheries management measures were introduced in future. Some felt that the true scale of such impacts had not been fully accounted for in the consultation documents. These concerns have been discussed in this report, but will also be further addressed when management measures come to be considered, if the sites are designated. Management measures will be considered in discussion with affected stakeholders, and will be subject to further economic and environmental assessment, prior to public consultation.
Others noted that MPAs will either protect these sites from detrimental impacts of fishing or be unable to protect these sites from detrimental impacts of fishing. Marine Scotland’s Future of Fisheries Management Strategy, will be able to deal with some of these points. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring sustainability in its fisheries and also on enforcement of fisheries management.
Overall, there is significant support for the designation of all four sites and therefore NatureScot has recommended to the Scottish Government the designation of the four possible MPAs: North-east Lewis, Sea of the Hebrides, Shiant East Bank and Southern Trench, subject to an amendment to the boundary of the Shiant East Bank pMPA.