Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Oban - 18 February 2020

Minutes of Marine Scotland's meeting on 18 February 2020 in Oban prior to enacting phase 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) measures and Priority Marine Features (PMF) review.

Attendees and apologies

Attending organisations:

  • Marine Scotland
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • West Coast RIFG
  • Scottish Razorclam Association
  • Scottish White Fish Producers Association
  • the meeting was also attended by a number of local fishers

Items and actions

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

General points

To note – Fishers in room owned boats of approx. 15m in length, so plotter information was not captured for smaller fishing vessels.

Attendees felt that proposed management options should not be described as low, medium and high, as both medium and high options have large socioeconomic impacts. MS recognised that options 2 and 3 had similar level of impact and reinforced that the purpose of these meetings is to enable MS to consider refinements to option 1 presented at workshop on 01 October 2019.

Fishers felt that if option 1 meets conservation requirements then options 2 and 3 should not be considered.

Fishers highlighted mistrust following Phase 1 MPA process, whereby they engaged with MS to develop management measures and had anticipated implementation of those with a low socioeconomic impact, only to have much higher impact measures selected. They felt that they had not been listened to by MS or Ministers, and that they were actively misled during the Phase 1 process. It was also suggested that a number of fishers had intentionally avoided these engagement meetings to discuss phase 2 MPA/PMF management because they do not trust MS. 

Fisher highlighted that Phase 1 MPA measures removed approximately 1/3 of their fishing grounds, bringing an end to their mobile fleet, and suggested that the impacts of these measures should be considered in advance of discussions about PMF management. MS confirmed that a report is currently being prepared to evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of Phase 1 management, and that this report will feed into the development of final proposals. 

Fishers felt that maerl is not impacted by bottom-contacting fishing gear and that it can quickly recover, highlighting that it has seemingly survived dredging/trawling to date. SNH reaffirmed that it is impacted, and referred to evidence given in introductory presentation. 

Fisher highlighted that fishing pressure in the Clyde region has markedly reduced in recent years, therefore suggesting that current activity from local industry is unlikely to seriously impact local maerl. SNH clarified that majority of damage occurs the first few times that a maerl bed is fished using mobile bottom-contacting gear, with a lower level of degradation incurred thereafter. 

Attendee highlighted that National Marine Plan requires MS to consider vulnerable communities and activities around Scotland’s coast when considering management. 

Fisher highlighted that SNH have records for maerl in Firth of Lorne at 40/50 fathoms which they felt to be completely unrealistic, and feel that false evidence has been used to support MPA designation. 

SNH highlighted that Firth of Lorne SAC is designated for reefs and not maerl.


  • SNH to look into depth of Firth of Lorne maerl records

Fishers also highlighted apparent evidence from the Isle of Man that demonstrates that, following fisheries closures, shellfish are supposedly dying off due to over population.

Fishers expressed concern that MS will consider creel closures for Loch Creran. MS confirmed that creel management is not being considered at this time for PMFs.

Fishers sought clarification about whether proposed options had come from industry or Marine Scotland. MS confirmed that proposals were developed following a previous scoping exercise and are now considering refinements in advance of public consultation.

MS highlighted that we are obliged to implement management for designated MPAs and PMFs, and reinforced the need for fishers to engage thereby enabling MS to consider refinements that minimise the economic impact of proposed measures.

Fishers highlighted that they do not fish all available areas every year, and so their environmental impact is likely to be lessened. They also highlighted that this may mean that they don’t have plotter data available for all given PMF areas.

MS Fishery Officer suggested that it may be beneficial to move away from straight boundaries, highlighting that fishers often follow depth contours when navigating.

Fishers expressed concern about sharing plotter data with MS because they have apparently seen it misused in the past (shared for Phase 1 MPA management and subsequently used to inform development of windfarms). They were also concerned that the shape of management areas could unintentionally reveal preferred fishing areas. Marine Scotland stressed that plotter data will not be shared elsewhere within MS nor between fishers (unless permission given at outset to do so), and that it will only be used for this purpose. Fishers acknowledged that it is in their interest to share information if they want to minimise impact of PMF and MPA measures. 

Fisher expressed concern that there is unlikely to be any mobile fishing effort once management for Phase 1 and 2 MPAs is in place alongside PMF management as it is likely to bring an end to the industry, and suggested that English system seems to work more advantageously for fishers.

Discussion about Oban PMF management measures


Fishers requested MS consider opening up some areas. Suggestion to open up some of centre section between feature and shore if possible. John McAlister to provide plotter data.


SNH highlighted that buffers are there for illustrative purpose in this site as Northern sea fan records are on cliff face and hence have natural protection. Fishers tow along cliff edge and sediment below cliff. 

Oberon Bank

Attending fishers were not affected by this site. MS confirmed that lower data point has been removed and so MS have already proposed to reduce site size significantly.

South of Muck

Site appeared to be problematic with fishers. Unrecorded maerl thought to be present in site. Prawn tows through middle of site.

Bo Fascadale

Attending fishers were not affected by this site, but annotated historic tows on maps for MS reference.

Poll Athach, N Mull

Fishers apparently anchor using gear in periods of poor weather within inner bay, and tow round outer half of bay. Too much weed in inner bay for dredging.

Ulva and Loch Na Keal

Fishers target large area in outer bay. Lines annotated on maps for MS reference. Fishers tow along both sides of the ledge that Northern sea fan records are along. 

Sound of Iona

Weed grows shallower than 10 fathoms in this site which blocks the dredges, so fishers do not tend to fish in these areas. Proposed amended boundary using depth contour on South side.

Loch Eil

Static gear only, fishers in room were not affected by proposal. Attendees not aware of any mobile fishers in this site.

Loch Leven

There is only static gear operating in this area. 

Port Appin

Attendees were not aware of any mobile fishers in this site. No clams thought to be there. 

Loch Craignish

Scallop tows in mouth of site. Prawn tows up centre of loch. Scallops can be caught within full length of tow line.

Ardchiavaig, Mull

Attending fishers did not have issues with the proposed area as they felt it was too shallow to fish.

Loch Tarbert, Jura

Fishers highlighted an emergency anchorage beyond maerl record, and confirmed that they would use their gear to anchor.

Sound of Islay

Fisher highlighted that tows go over 20m depth contour, so suggested boundary goes above this. Attending fisher can offer approximately 5 year time series for plotter data and will share following the meeting.

Loch A’Chnuic and Ardilistry

Attending fishers not affected by proposals, site thought to be too shallow to fish.

Port Ellen to Ardbeg, Islay

Attending fishers felt they would not be significantly impacted by proposal. A local fleet used to fish in westerly bay but there is no longer a local fleet.

NE Gigha

Local fisher plotter doesn’t cover inner area, but area is known to be fished. 

Loch Nan Ceall, Arisaig

Attending fishers content to follow suggestions from Mallaig fishers. 

Loch Eishort and Slapin, Skye

Tow lines detailed by attending fishers don’t appear to overlap with maerl but do overlap with Northern sea fan records.

Loch Scavaig

Attending fishers stated that they fish all around island and were discontent with proposal. Site problematic.

Loch Eynort

Largely don’t enter loch, but tow scoops slightly into mouth of proposed management area.

Loch Bracadale

Attending fishers highlighted that bigger boats do come into this area, but that their tows do not appear to interact with feature records. Tows annotated on map. 

NE Gigha

Area fished during winter months due to sheltered position.

Loch Eriboll

Attending fisher would like to see main area of bay opened up to enable sheltered fishing. Highlighted that the deep water in opening of bay has a good scallop fishery.

Discussion about Oban MPA management measures

Small Isles MPA

Fishers highlighted fishing effort in middle of area, to west of Canna. Issue raised by fisher that Loch Ceolisport (Phase 1 MPA) used vessel tonnage to determine measures which is inconsistent with Phase 2 proposals. Attending fisher tows right along Canna coast. MS stressed that we are open to considering amendments to management proposals.

Mallaig and N. West fishers agreed to consider developing alternative proposal. 

Sound of Arisaig SAC

Attending fishers did not feel there is a great deal of activity in the site. Fisher in room highlighted that they would fish into 18-20m depth, and where there may be conflict in area. Suggested that local fishers should be able to provide great detail on areas currently fished. Fisher agreed to work with SWFPA to share CVP tapes (historic plotter recordings) for site.

Action point summary

  • SNH to look into depth of Firth of Lorne maerl records
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