Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Stornoway - 12 March 2020

Minutes of Marine Scotland's meeting on 12 March 2020 in Stornoway prior to enacting phase 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPA) measures and Priority Marine Features (PMF) review.

Attendees and apologies

Attending organisations:

  • Marine Scotland (MS)
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Outer Hebrides Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (RIFG)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

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 queried how sediment damages sea floor communities. SNH provided detail and acknowledged that different communities may be less impacted; for instance, Northern sea fan and sponge communities live on rocky habitat. If they are located on cliff face then a buffer may not be necessary to protect them from this impact. 

Fishers asked for evidence that fishing activity has caused greater damage than natural weather occurrences. SNH highlighted that without a clear understanding of where fishing pressure takes place, it is difficult to determine if damage is from natural or unnatural causes. 

Fishers felt that if features still exist this is evidence that fishing must not negatively impact upon them. 

SNH highlighted that maerl beds survive thousands of years and therefore have encountered many “hundred year events”; they accordingly have becoming positioned in areas where they can better survive natural weather events. 

Duncan McInnes highlighted that a previous Marine Scotland consultation cited maerl surviving down to 23m in Wester Ross. SNH highlighted this may be correct for that site, and that it can grow deeper elsewhere if there is sufficient water clarity. 

SNH highlighted that Sound of Barra has good habitat for scallop spat. So long as spat continues to come up from south and settle in the habitat, and later drop into the central area where maerl lies, then it is likely to  continue to be a productive scallop area regardless of the quality of the maerl.

Fisher felt that seasonal fishing helps to sustains scallop stocks. 

One fisher queried the use of citizen science records. SNH highlighted that citizen science records are sometimes used to inform where MS/SNH surveys should be undertaken, but only after they have been through quality assurance procedures.

Fisher suggested that it would be prudent to stop this process until there is a better understanding, of where fishing activity takes place following implementation of REM on smaller inshore vessels. MS highlighted that it will take many years for us to get a full picture of fishing areas, which is why we are meeting with fishers and requesting plotter data. MS also highlighted that these measures will not come into force until monitoring is in place, which will help to protect vessels from false accusations of illegal fishing. Fisher expressed concern that there is potential to get it wrong (as he feels happened in Wester Ross) an so still felt that the process should be delayed. 

Fishers felt that PMFs are being afforded greater protection than industry. 

Fishers expressed concern that creels will be restricted in the future even though proposed managed is for mobile bottom contacting gear only.

The Outer Hebrides RIFG highlighted they have been waiting two years for appropriate assessment for sea grass in Sound of Barra for the razor clam fishery. SNH highlighted that they have not been formally requested by MS to undertake this assessment.


  • MS to ask Sea Fisheries colleagues to clarify if assessment of sea grass is required in Sound of Barra for razor clam fishery

Fishers expressed concern that MS/SNH are not taking process seriously due to the apparent size of some of the proposed PMF areas. It was highlighted that MS developed these proposals without access to information about fishing tracks for smaller vessels, and that the purpose of these meetings is to gain this information to refine proposals, where possible, before they go to public consultation. 

Fishers queried where requirement to implement PMF protection comes from. MS highlighted that PMF list is drawn from EU, International and National legislation, which is then afforded protection under General Policy 9 of the marine plan on natural heritage. MS also highlighted that features must be protected sufficiently from all marine activities and that the fishing industry is not being singled out. Fishers felt that this is a ‘paper exercise’, and were adamant that PMFs must be coping with fishing pressure to still be extant. 

Fishers felt that much greater resolution is required within SEIA, and highlighted  that the impact of Phase 1 MPA measures had been much greater than anticipated (anticipated £20K, apparent impact closer to £180K). MS highlighted they use the best quality data that could provide a consistent assessment at the national scale. 

Fishers highlighted that the impact of Phase 1 measures had been lessened by displacement to different fishing areas, but that these are being eroded by the proposals, thereby increasing the impact of additional management.

Fishers also highlighted that cumulative displacement will have increasingly greater impact on remaining features without management in place. They expressed concern that this may in turn increase the likelihood of additional management measures which would have a disproportionality greater impact on the industry now reliant on these smaller focussed areas. 

MS highlighted a known issue that some fishers only record main form of fishing, meaning that set net catches can be underrepresented. 

SNH highlight that we are considering use of depth contours to delineate management areas. 

Fishers highlighted concern that data lacks credibility based on the age of some records, and feel that data should therefore not be used to affect people’s livelihoods. SNH highlighted that there is ongoing monitoring and so older data points are often seen alongside more recent data.

Fishers queried what benefit PMFs bring to UK population as a whole, as they felt that the local impacts outweigh the nationwide benefits.They also highlighted that fishers displaced from areas such as Sound of Barra are unlikely to be able to fish elsewhere, bringing an end to the local industry. They also highlighted that there are few alternative industries that they could move into. 

Fishers highlighted significant concern that Canadian investment in Macduff Shellfish processing factory in Stornoway could be withdrawn if investors heard about PMF/MPA process.

Discussion about PMF management measures

East of Mingulay

No fishers in room affected. 

Loch Aineort to Loch Baghasdail, South Uist

Prawn trawl into mouth of N Loch. 

Loch Seaforth

Creels only. 

Loch T, T, R and C, Harris

Attending fishers were unaware of any mobile activity in this site.

Sound of Harris

Attending fishers were unaware of any mobile activity within this site, only near the features near south east side of map. 

Sound of Taransay

Attending fishers were unaware of any mobile activity in this site.

South East Barra

Site to be further discussed in Benbecula as it is known to be particularly contentious for fishers further south. 

Ascrib Islands

MS highlighted that we are considering moving management boundary. 

Loch Bay

One attending fisher trawls inside N area. MS highlighted that we have received some plotter data for this site and will consider amendments to this site. Fisher agreed to submitted additional plotter data.

Loch Bracadale

Fishers highlighted that this is a popular site to fish in the evening on their way home. The Outer Hebrides RIFG had additional plotter data and was content to submit share it if required. 

Port Erradale

MS highlighted that proposed management area is similar to a recently proposed closure for herring but confirmed that they are separate sets of measures. Considerable concern was voiced about site. A fisher highlighted that proposed measures in this site would have a big economic impact on them. 

MS highlighted that depth zoning it unlikely to be appropriate at this site because the maerl has been recorded at a range of depths. SNH pointed out that maerl appears to be in poor condition in this site, to which a fisher suggested herring may show a preference for broken maerl to intact maerl beds. Fishers expressed concern that that the decision has already be made to restrict all mobile bottom contacting gear in this area, despite the fact that MS say we are considering alterations to this site. MS acknowledge that this is a challenging site, and highlighted that there may be the opportunity to amend the site boundary to minimise impact on industry.

Raasay to Scalpay

MS confirmed that we are considering amending this management area. 


Attending fishers were concerned by this area. MS highlighted that we have not yet received any plotter data for this site, and so requested fishers submit available data to support decision making. 

Loch Eriboll

Fisher fishes within bay and around protuberance in the centre of the outer bay.

Discussion about MPA management measures

Loch Nam Madadh

No concerns raised by attending fishers. 

Monach Isles

Fishers highlighted that they cannot fish tangle nets here any longer due to a large local seal population. They felt that that, following the SIFIDS project (which attached bluetooth markers to set nets to record depth data) MS could consider depth specific measures. Fishers did not feel it is appropriate to stop fishing in the area to protect seals, as they do not consider them to be a species in need of protection. Additionally, fishers highlighted that set nets use 250 mm mesh which they feel should enable black guillemots to easily get through nets and said they never catch them in nets. 

Fisher suggested that set net fishing period is short and so perhaps management could be withheld during this period (April, May and June) and closed the rest of the year. SNH flagged that this period is likely to have the greatest impact on black guillemots as it would coincide with their nesting period. 

Fishers suggested that zoning of the site could be considered, and highlighted that SNH don’t appear to specify between gill nets and tangle nets; tangle nets are set on seabed.

Fishers stated that seals quickly learn not to swim too close to the nets, with seal bycatch figures ranging from 3-15. Fishers queried if there is any acceptable level of seal bycatch. 

North Rona

Attending fishers don’t come shallower than 12 fathom/25m. They only fish creels within the management boundary, and confirmed that they do fish with set nets around outer perimeter. A fisher highlighted that there are often a number of guillemots in the water near SE contour; this is a sandy area so they are likely feeding on sand eels there. The area is very shallow, and so they normally fish creels there from April-June. 

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