Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Benbecula - 13 March 2020

Minutes of Marine Scotland's meeting on 13 March 2020 in Benbecula prior to enacting phase 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) measures and Priority Marine Features (PMF) review.

Attendees and apologies

Attending organisations (20 attendees total):

  • Marine Scotland
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Outer Hebrides Regional Inshore Fisheries Group
  • Western Isles Fisheries Association

Items and actions

To note - this is Marine Scotland's record of the meeting. It has not been agreed by meeting participants.

General notes

Fishers highlighted that cumulative closures have affected local industry, be it by directly by fishery closures or indirectly by increased spatial competition from other affected fishers. 

MS confirmed that suggested changes to PMF management areas will be considered and proposals amended following discussions, with a revised  SEA and SEIA completed prior to public consultation.

MS highlighted that measures will be jointly decided by both the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, and the Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment.

Fishers highlighted that the Highlands and Islands Development Board (HIDB) encouraged individuals to invest in fishing in the 1960-70s. They now feel that the process has gone full circle as MS propose further fisheries closures.

Fishers highlighted that their lives will have no purpose if proposed fisheries closures go ahead, as fishing is an integral part of their lives and industry in the outer Hebrides.

Fishers queried why cameras are to be installed on <8 m vessels that cannot pull more than 8 nets aside, as they felt the money could be more sensibly used. They also raised concern that if equipment breaks then they will have to stop fishing to enable repairs. Fishers did not have an issue with a tracker system, but could not understand the justification for cameras. 


  • MS to refer question about cameras on <8 m vessels to sea fisheries policy colleagues and feedback details to Duncan McInnes

Fishers expressed concern that Marine Scotland’s reliance on historic plotter evidence will bias discussions to impacts on existing fishing areas, and therefore not fully consider the impact of restrictions to potential future fishing areas.

One fisher suggested that the existence of PMFs today may demonstrate that bottom-contact fishing methods do not negatively impact upon the features, and indeed may benefit them. SNH highlighted that this was not the case, referring back to evidence given in introductory presentation. 

SNH highlighted that an option to freeze the existing fishing footprint had been suggested in the 2018 scoping consultation, but that industry rejected this option as it was felt that fishers require flexibility to target different areas according to conditions. 

Fishers felt that PMFs had been identified in all of their fishing areas and highlighted the high level of impact that management is likely to have on industry.  

Fishers clearly stated that they are not against conservation, and emphasised that they have gone to great lengths to implement restrictions and support the use of less damaging equipment in support of conservation. 

MS gave summary of MarPAMM project and encouraged fishers to engage with project to identify alternative management proposals.

Fishers highlighted that SEIA for Phase 2 MPAs does not incorporate subsequent impacts felt elsewhere within community; e.g. fish processing factory for sites such as the Sound of Barra, MS highlighted that processing is included in the SEIA

Fishers highlighted difficulty in orientating against a printed map when discussing PMF management areas, as they normally judge their position using land features.

Discussion about MPA management measures

Sound of Barra MPA

Fishers highlighted that this area is vital for their livelihoods and that the area has been intensively fished for scallops since 1976, being one of most intensively fished areas since the scallop industry began. They highlighted that many will be pushed out of the industry if this area is closed to dredging, and that there are not alternative industries that the fishers can move to in the region. 

Fishers highlighted that the entire proposed management area is productive and that the scallops are considered to be of the highest quality available. 

Fishers expressed an expectation that the MPA status would be lost following EU Exit. MS clarified that the site status will be maintained following EU Exit. SNH also highlighted that conservation objectives for the site were being reviewed and may change. Fishers were concerned that there is little room for discussion for this site to protect their interests, and that the Scottish Government is trying to clear the Western Isles of fishers. They highlighted that they felt this proposal to be the worst ever encountered by industry.

MS proposed an opportunity to work together to develop an alternative management option. Fishers did not feel that there was any value in trying to do so, as maerl records have such a significant overlap with valuable fishing areas. Fishers highlighted that they would rather the Scottish Government was fined for infraction by EU than measures implemented, as they felt that there was no possible management solution for this site. 

Fishers highlighted that the site is frequently dredged throughout the open season by vessels from Uist and Barra. 

Fishers suggest that degradation of maerl could be resultant from extreme weather conditions rather than dredging, such as from sedimentation. SNH highlight that they are mostly concerned by direct impact to maerl and that they consider sedimentation to be a secondary issue.  

Fishers suggested closing area west of island to dredging, leaving the area east of the island open (where the majority of maerl records are). This would lose them some tows but leave the most productive area open. SNH highlighted that this proposal is very unlikely to be considered acceptable under an appropriate assessment.


  • WIFA were asked to contact Marine Scotland or the MarPAMM project if they wished to discuss the opportunity for a zonal approach to the management in the Sound of Barra

Small Isles MPA

Fishers highlight that a lot of their fishing ground is impacted by proposed management. They highlighted that they are particularly reliant on the grounds north of Canna which is currently open to fishing using boats with smaller engines. Fishers annotated maps to clarify which other areas they feel should be opened back up to industry. 

Monach Isles SPA

The attending fishers highlighted that they didn’t fish this site largely due to the high creel numbers in the area, but that it is known to be productive area for crawfish (caught using tangle nets). They felt that the proposed management area is very large, and highlighted that they may seek to fish there in the future if pushed to diversify. 

Fishers suggested that the size of the management area is maintained, but that the boundary goes out further on the north and east side of Island, bringing the boundary in closer on the west side. They suggested that a net mesh size/hanging ratio specification could be used to create alternative management in areas outside of the rectangular seal management area within MPA. 

Discussion about PMF management measures

South East Barra

MS highlighted that we do not intend to take this site forward, so that it can continue to be used for Before-After Control Impact (BACI) studies.

Loch Ainort and Loch Baghasdaile

Fishers highlighted that there are prawn tows into northern end of the loch. 

East of Mingulay

MS confirmed we have received plotter data of this site. Fishers raised an issue with the existing management for East Mingulay MPA and Wester Ross MPA, highlighting that they hope Marine Scotland consider reducing current management during the MPA review, thought by them to be 2021. They also highlighted that they would like the East Mingulay MPA to have depth specific management measures to support fishers in adhering to restrictions, since these have been used in the Summer Isles. 


  • MS to confirm with WIFA when East Mingulay MPA and Wester Ross MPA measures will be reviewed

Sound of Harris, Lewis

No concerns raised by attending fishers as they did not fish this area.

Loch Eriboll

No concerns raised by attending fishers as they did not fish this area.


MS highlighted intention to consider reducing this management area following review of PMF records. Attending fishers were content with described boundary changes (opening upper and lower section of area). 

Red Point

Fishers highlighted that they have tows through this management area.

Ascrib Islands

MS highlighted that this site is known to be contentious, but that there could be scope for reducing the management area. Fishers highlighted that they fish east of the two boundary points on upper east side of management area, on the lower side of the sea cliff. MS highlighted that common sense will be applied with regards to sea cliff buffers for Northern sea fan. Fishers estimated that they fish to approximately 25m in NE corner. They suggested reducing the management boundary to exclude the Norther sea fan records, as they feel the feature is self-protecting by proxy of location. 

Oberon Bank

Attending fishers agreed to submit plotter data for this site.

Bo Fascadale

Significant concern was voiced by attending fishers, who agreed to share plotter data for this site. 

South of Muck

Attending fishers are aware of some fishing taking place in the NW side of the proposed management area. 

Duirinish, Skye

MS highlighted that we are considering a significant reduction in the size of this site following review of PMF records, meaning it would only cover a small shallow area of maerl in southern end.

Loch Scavaig

Significant concern was raised by attending fishers as most of the proposed management area is fished. 

Loch Eynort, Skye

Attending fishers highlighted that they tow slightly into mouth of the loch/management area, and use inner area of loch as an anchorage as annotated on a map.

Raasay to Scalpay

Attending fishers highlighted that this area is worked by smaller boats from Mallaig boats and by none in room. 

Loch Bay, Skye

Fishers confirmed that some fishing is undertaken in the area within northern entrance to bay, slightly overlapping with the proposed management area. They also highlighted that this site is a popular anchorage. 

Lochs Eishort and Slappin, Skye

Fishers confirmed that they are aware of trawling and dredging activity in this site, but that no fishers in the room are affected (Mallaig & Skye fishers affected only).

Loch Bracadale

Fisher confirmed that this is a popular fishing area and anchorage. A map was annotated with an alternative proposed boundary that would facilitate current tows. Fishers also stated that they enter further into the loch to anchor.


Attending fisher agreed to submit plotter data for this site. 

Action point summary

  • MS to refer question about cameras on <8 m vessels to sea fisheries policy colleagues and feedback details to Duncan McInnes
  • WIFA were asked to contact Marine Scotland or the MarPAMM project if they wished to discuss the opportunity for a zonal approach to the management in the Sound of Barra
  • MS to confirm with WIFA when East Mingulay MPA and Wester Ross MPA measures will be reviewed
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