Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Open Seas - 26 March 2020

Minutes of Marine Scotland's meeting on 26 March 2020 with Open Seas prior to enacting phase 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) measures and Priority Marine Features (PMF) review.

Attendees and apologies

Attending organisations:

  • Marine Scotland
  • Open Seas

Items and actions

Main points discussed


Open Seas queried the many delays to date and asked what the forward timeline for the project looks like, and whether work will continue on it in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Marine Scotland highlighted that the project has unfortunately been delayed by the pandemic, and that we are unable to suggest a revised timeline at this point. Marine Scotland confirmed that we will move forward where we can, but that Ministerial decision making is likely to be delayed as Ministers prioritise Covid-19 work. Open Seas expressed disappointment and noted the ongoing risk to PMF habitats. 


Open Seas expressed concern that the SEIA set out at the workshop in 2019 estimated inaccurate/unrealistic cost estimates, as it was based on incomplete data and an uneven approach to use of cost and benefit data. They highlighted that another report by Marine Scotland (The Nephrops optimisation paper) found that “redistributing access to fishing grounds [between trawlers and creelers] to maximise employment could increase employment by around 10% [or] £14 million of gross value added (GVA)”, which contradicted the partial assessment done in the SEIA. Marine Scotland confirmed that the SEA and SEIA will be revised upon completion of stakeholder meetings. This will enable more recent data sets to be used, and for any other improvements or refinements to the SEIA process to be considered, such as potential inclusion of a quantified measure for ecosystem services if available. 


  • Open Seas share detailed comments on SEIA

Reasonable alternatives

Open Seas queried what the reasonable alternatives are likely to look like following stakeholder engagement. Open Seas asked that any changes to reasonable alternatives should be transparently justified on basis of open public consultation. MS highlighted that no ministerial decision has been made at this stage on what options will be taken forward to public consultation.

Stakeholder engagement

Open Seas queried how they should continue to engage with the project as it develops, and highlighted that MS have not provided an update to all relevant stakeholders since announcing the additional stakeholder meetings last year. Marine Scotland agreed to consider sending project update to stakeholders to confirm that project is delayed, and that we will continue to update stakeholder as appropriate when there are opportunities for them to feed into the project.


  • Marine Scotland to consider sending project update to stakeholders to confirm that project is delayed

Open Seas asked what sort of discussions have been held in other meetings. MS confirmed that we have been speaking to a range of stakeholders following the workshop on 01 October 2019. This notably includes environmental stakeholders and fisheries stakeholders, the latter arranged via the Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs). Discussions have therefore been diverse, with stakeholders having wide ranging views on the process. Marine Scotland confirmed that meetings via RIFGs have had representation from all inshore fisheries even though the initial purpose of meetings was to hear from the mobile sector to better understand where they are active.

Open Seas asked what Marine Scotland is doing to ensure fair weighting between stakeholder groups in light of the high number of local fisheries meetings. Marine Scotland highlighted that the high number of local meetings are being carried out to ensure that we are hearing from those likely to actually be affected, as opposed to hearing broader opinions from fisheries associations. The opinions of environmental organisations will not be outweighed by opinions from fishers, but rather Marine Scotland are keen to ensure that those most affected have the opportunity to raise their concerns. 


MS confirmed that the proposed PMF management areas are available online, and that PMF data is available on the GEMS database. Open Seas highlighted that new areas may not have been added to the online collection, Marine Scotland will check this. 


  • Marine Scotland to check more recent proposed PMF management areas are available on NMPi

Open Seas sought to better understand if MS are looking to clip boundaries of proposed areas. MS highlighted that we will ensure that changes in proposal boundaries are clearly explained when this goes to consultation. 


Open Seas asked how Marine Scotland will interpret information given during meetings with fishing industry. Marine Scotland highlighted annotated maps are discussed at meetings, but these will be corroborated by data from fishers and local fisheries knowledge from Marine Scotland fisheries offices. 

Management areas

Open Seas expressed concern that Marine Scotland intend to reduce the size of proposed management areas based on pressure from the industry. They felt that this would leave more seabed area open to damage, and restrict recovery of the remnant PMFs being protected, which they believed would fail to meet the requirements of the National Marine Plan. They also highlighted that this does not apply additional protection for other marine areas and does not take an ecosystems approach to fishery management, which they believed would fail other commitments and breach the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 amongst other legal commitments. They do not feel that this is an ecosystem fisheries management approach nor consistent with Ministers’ legal duties. MS highlighted that we are taking an evidence based approach which seeks to protect the given PMFs, and that the National Marine Plan also requires us to consider management in relation to supporting a sustainable inshore fishing fleet. Open Seas felt that Marine Scotland’s level of ambition has reduced since their previous meeting in May/June 2019 and that the presumption being used by Marine Scotland is one in favour of sustainable use, not use alone, so cannot be safely used in this way. 

81 PMFs

Open Seas highlighted that it is now three years since Marine Scotland identified the most vulnerable PMFs for which management would be considered, at the time stating that we would consider management for the 70 remaining PMFs in the future. As three years has now passed, Open Seas asked if Marine Scotland will now consider management for the remaining PMFs. Marine Scotland highlighted that we are taking a risk based approach focussing on 11 PMFs most at threat of damage at the moment and will consider others in the future if improved management is felt necessary. Marine Scotland also highlighted that all PMFs are considered through the marine licencing process - but not their management of fisheries, and that this process seeks to provide fisheries management by considering protection from mobile fisheries.     

Blue carbon 

Open Seas reminded Marine Scotland that all public bodies have a duty to act in a way best calculated to mitigate climate change and noted that the 2018 Climate Change Plan stated “Many of the key habitats and species are Priority Marine Features. This means they are given general protection by policies in the National Marine Plan, which requires decision makers to consider climate change mitigation and adaptation. Many are also safeguarded within Scotland’s Marine Protected Area Network. This provides potential to enhance these important marine ecosystems to ensure they continue to capture and store carbon.” Open Seas asked how Marine Scotland had accounted for this in this process, including how these habitats were being safeguarded or enhanced. MS highlighted that we have discussed these issues internally but deferred to a meeting with the Marine Climate Change lead the next week. 


Open Seas highlighted that they have received a number of reports of fishing activity in PMF areas and queried how smaller management areas will be enforced. Marine Scotland highlighted that all proposed measures will be considered by Marine Scotland Compliance colleagues to ensure that management can be enforced, and that the vessel modernisation programme may improve resolution of vessel tracking data to enable smaller areas to be policed. 

Meeting summary

Marine Scotland confirmed that notes have been taken throughout the course of this meeting to ensure that Open Seas concerns are recorded and that we can follow up on subsequent actions. Marine Scotland agreed to share these notes with Open Seas following the meeting, and Open Seas agreed to share their own email summary of concerns raised.


  • Marine Scotland to share meeting notes with Open Seas
  • Open Seas to share summary of concerns and points raised with Marine Scotland    

Open Seas summarised general lack of clarity about how they can push for improvement management of the marine environment, and highlighted that they are unclear whether their focus should be on the Future of Fisheries Management discussions or the PMF review to encourage positive change for the marine environment. They highlighted that they would appreciate a clearer understanding of how they can influence and feed into processes that seek to improve marine management in support of achievement of Scottish Government’s stated goals and commitments on marine environment, including the indicator included in Scotland’s environmental strategy for the extent of physical damage to seafloor habitats to be reduced.      

Action point summary

  • Open Seas share detailed comments on SEIA
  • Marine Scotland to consider sending project update to stakeholders to confirm that project is delayed
  • Marine Scotland to check more recent proposed PMF management areas are available on NMPi
  • Marine Scotland to share meeting notes with Open Seas
  • Open Seas to share summary of concerns and points raised with Marine Scotland
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