Highly Protected Marine Areas: policy framework

Sets out our proposed definition and aims of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) and what this could mean for different activities taking place in Scottish waters. Also describes how we will account for socio-economic factors alongside ecological considerations and proposed new legal powers.

6. Sectoral considerations

6.1 Overview

The introduction of HPMAs will impact how we all use and interact with the marine environment. However, we recognise that there are differences in the types and scales of individuals and businesses that will be affected.

Engaging with these different sectors to fully consider socio-economic factors will be critical as we refine site proposals during the selection and assessment process. Another key aim will be working to ensure that, where possible, impacts are not disproportionately focused on some sectors, and that the benefits of HPMAs are spread as widely as possible.

The sections below set out some sector-specific considerations in greater detail. This includes:

  • whether activities are proposed to be restricted
  • whether areas will be scoped out of consideration as HPMAs (i.e. excluded from the site selection process)
  • key issues and considerations to be addressed during the HPMA selection and assessment process
  • key issues and considerations to be addressed in the legal powers being sought to regulate activities

For further information on how sector specific socio-economic impacts will be considered during the site selection process please see Appendix B of the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment.

6.2 Commercial fishing

It is intended that commercial fishing of any kind and by any type of vessel will not be allowed within HPMAs. This includes fishing with static gear, mobile gear and hand collection by divers.

It is proposed that fishing vessels will be allowed to transit through HPMAs. For the purpose of monitoring and to facilitate enforcement of fishing restrictions in HPMAs, it is proposed that additional requirements are introduced for vessels to transit through certain HPMAs, such as:

  • minimum speed requirements for transiting sites to help ensure that fishing is not occurring
  • a requirement to lash and stow all fishing gear whilst transiting sites
  • enhanced reporting requirements for vessel monitoring systems

The introduction of additional requirements will be assessed and developed during the site selection process.

Several Fishery Orders grant the applicant exclusive fishing rights for a specified area and a limited time. There are currently 5 Several Fishery Orders in force. Separately, there is one Regulating Order in force, the Shetland Islands Regulated Fishery (Scotland) Order 2012/348 which confers on the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation the right of regulating a fishery for oysters, mussels, cockles, clams, lobsters, scallops, queen scallops, crabs, whelks and razorshells on the bed of the sea adjacent to the Shetland Islands for a period of 15 years until 31st January 2028.

Should a site identified as an HPMA overlap with an area covered by a Several Fishery Order or Regulating Order, it is proposed that, upon renewal, the area covered by the HPMA would be excluded from the order. No new Several Fishery Orders or Regulating Orders would be granted in HPMAs.

Scotland’s commercial fishing fleet and sea fisheries are significant contributors to rural and coastal economies and to the food and drink economy, playing an important part in many remote and potentially fragile communities. Scotland accounts for just over 8% of the total UK population[5], but landings by Scottish vessels accounted for 63% of the tonnage and 59% of the value of all landings by UK vessels in 2020[6]. While employment in the fishing fleet is a small percentage of total employment in Scotland (0.2% of the Scottish labour force in 2020[7]), it accounts for a higher percentage of employment in island communities.[8] However, beyond those directly employed at sea, the Scottish fishing industry also supports a range of jobs in the seafood processing sector – in 2019 this provided employment for 6,800 people[9].

Scotland’s Future Fisheries Management Strategy sets out our approach to managing sea fisheries in Scotland in partnership with our stakeholders through ‘co-management’ and in a way that balances environmental, social and economic interests. Sustainability, support for biodiversity and consideration of the wider ecosystem is at the heart of how we manage Scotland’s fisheries and protect our marine environment and vital to ensure we can maintain our fisheries for future generations. Protecting critical fish habitats will contribute to the long term sustainability of the fishing industry. The updated UK Marine Strategy Assessment (2019) noted the spatial extent of damage to the seabed from fishing gear was greater than that caused by other activities. Removal of all forms of fishing pressure within HPMAs is one way to reduce this pressure and contributes to achieving and maintaining Good Environmental Status whilst realising the outcomes of our Blue Economy Vision.

We recognise that the fishing industry has faced significant challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of the UK’s exit from the European Union. There is also increasing competition for space from marine renewable developments, marine conservation measures (including the existing MPA network) and other sea users. HPMAs will place further spatial restrictions on the fishing industry.

We will engage with fishers when developing HPMAs. Fishers will be able to provide valuable information about known fish congregation areas which are important for spawning and recruitment of our commercial fisheries, as well as spatial information to help us understand where fishing activity occurs, particularly for sectors of the fleet not currently covered by vessel monitoring and tracking requirements. This will help us to consider the positive and negative impacts of different proposed site locations, it will also help us to understand cumulative impacts and help us to minimise as far as possible any unintended consequences of displacement.

The Bute House Agreement has expedited and built on our 2020-2030 Fisheries Management, which puts sustainability at the heart of how we manage Scotland’s seas. We have committed to consulting as soon as is practicable on inshore fisheries proposals to introduce a cap (based on current levels) on fishing activity in inshore waters up to three nautical miles; review the status of latent scallop entitlements; and extend the requirement for tracking and monitoring to all commercial fishing vessels within this parliamentary session. These proposals will complement spatial marine environment measures such as HPMAs and MPAs by further protecting the inshore seabed, progressing the objective of achieving and maintaining good environmental status for Scotland’s seas.


Email: HPMA@gov.scot

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