Phase 2 MPA measures and PMF review minutes: Troon - 3 December 2021

Minutes of the pre-consultation engagement with fisheries stakeholders on inshore management measures for Priority Marine Features (PMFs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Troon on 3 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Fishing sector including prawn and scallop fishers in the Clyde and Tarbert
  • Fishery Associations (Clyde, Tarbert and Mallaig and North West)
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF)
  • Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA)
  • Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
  • Clyde Fishermen’s Association
  • West Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group
  • Marine Scotland
  • NatureScot

Items and actions

Meeting agenda

  • Welcome and introductions
  • update on recent Scottish Government commitments on Marine Protected Areas
  • outline of the process to develop MPA and PMF fisheries management measures so far
  • discussion on proposed PMF fisheries management measures
  • discussion on proposed MPA fisheries management measures
  • conclusions and next step

Welcome and introductions

Marine Scotland welcomed everyone to the meeting to discuss the proposed inshore management measures for Priority Marine Features (PMFs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the east coast. This meeting was intended to be held in Troon in person, but due to the new variant of coronavirus (COVID-19) had to be rearranged to be online.

Introductions were made by Marine Scotland and NatureScot colleagues and general introductions were made by attendees.


  • none

Update on recent Scottish Government commitments on Marine Protected Areas

Outline of the process to develop MPA and PMF fisheries management measures so far

Marine Scotland and NatureScot presented part of the powerpoint presentation to give an overview of the background, process and updates occurring on the Inshore MPA and PMF project.

Feedback/questions from attendees on this presentation and agenda items:

  • clarification required on why mobile bottom contact fishing gear is the only sector specifically mentioned in the greens agreement and if the impacts of static gear on PMFs are being ignore
    • Marine Scotland explained that the proposals to protect Priority Marine features sites outside of MPAs are focused on mobile bottom contacting gear, advice from impacts on fishing gear takes a risk based approach depending on the features being protects and mobile bottom contacting fishing gear poses the greatest risk to the 11 PMFs which are the focus of this project
  • question raised regarding what evidence is available for the effectiveness of the current MPAs before making any more MPAs, HPMAs or PMFs and displacing more of the fishing fleet? reference was made specifically to the South of Arran MPA and the changes incurred by static fishers moving into the fishing areas
    • Marine Scotland commented that continual monitoring of MPAs occurs and reporting is carried out on a risk based basis, however depending on their conservation status, some of the features within these MPAs can take more than six years to have reportable change, it should be highlighted that proposals are not for the creation of new MPAs, but rather they are fisheries management proposals for MPAs which were designated in 2014, evidence is being collected as part of ongoing MPA monitoring in the South of Arran MPA we can share those reports when available
  • question raised about who collected the science/data around PMF distributions and when was it last examined, some of the features listed no longer exist at these locations and think that the science should be redone and independently verified, as the Clyde is being increasingly closed to fishers and as a result of restrictions for nature conservation purposes and therefore it is important we get it right
    • Marine Scotland highlighted that all data has undergone quality assurance by NatureScot, and reiterated that these questions are all answered in the presentation
  • stakeholder commented that features have survived many years of fishing and therefore do not need additional protection, Marine Scotland are creating a problem which isn’t there, concern made for how fishers are meant to continue their livelihoods with these restrictions, as they only fishing an area which has already been fished for many years
  • stakeholder stated fishers have obligations to feed their families, keep business running and make them sustainable
  • question raised about which is more important to Marine Scotland, protecting these features, or keep coastal communities running? stating that static gear does twice as much damage as mobile gear to PMFs
    • Marine Scotland made the point that protecting features and supporting coastal communities is not an either/or situation, Marine Scotland have a legal requirement to provide marine protection through MPAs, Marine Scotland has made efforts through EU exit and the COVID-19 pandemic to provide additional support to coastal communities and Scotland’s fishing fleet, and aiming to reduce the impact of fisheries management proposals on fishing communities where possible
  • one stakeholder stated that over 50% of scallop ground and a winter fishery has been lost in the Clyde since 2013, in addition, the summer fishery has also been lost due to protection of flapper skate
  • question raised why this continued loss of fishing ground is allowed to continue?
    • Marine Scotland reminted attendees that this meeting was specifically to discuss the current proposals for MPA and PMF management measures
  • stakeholder stated that this meeting is the only place where fishers feel they have the space to discuss the issues which are wider than just the topics of MPAs and PMFs
  • concerns raised on the use of citizen science and research conducted by conservation society, money is being directly supplied to groups who are surveying PMFs on the west coast, therefore an imbalance is occurring whereby more PMFs are being identified on the west due to survey resource being pushed in this region over others
    • Marine Scotland clarified that the funds these citizen groups are using are available to all, the distribution of PMFs are related to the geography and environment of Scotland and not a bias in survey effort
    • Marine Scotland explained that the PMF data for citizen scinence is only 8% in total of all the information held, NatureScot only use quality assured citizen science records, and the main bulk of the data they use if from their own survey records which is spread across the whole of Scotland, in addition the locations of PMFs are down to simple the biology and geography of the features, they are naturally occurring features of the west coast ecosystem
  • a stakeholder commented that there have been many conversations around reprioritisation exercise happening within Marine Scotland, fishers have taken cuts over the last two years and are under so much stress from all aspects, that cumulative impact of this stress and the erosion of their culture needs to be taken into account by Marine Scotland
    • Marine Scotland highlighted the MAU reports of the socio-economic impacts of MPAs published in 2020 and 2017
  • a stakeholder stated that an independent peer review of the socio-economic impact report published in 2020 is required, impacts are much wider than they seem and this cannot be delivered in house
  • a stakeholder stated there being a lack of trust between fishers and government and public bodies, some attendees view was that fishers are being mistreated and there is no trust in government as they don’t feel like they are being listened too, additional point raised that during prior negotiations and attending meetings over 4.5 years a deal was almost done and at the last minute Ministers changed their minds (especially around the South of Arran MPA), how can fishers trust the process when last minute changes occurs, have Marine Scotland already made up their minds on PMFs
    • Marine Scotland are aware of the concerns raised following implementation of fisheries management measures for the last round of MPAs, and stressed that these meetings are used to develop fisheries management options during these meetings, this is done by Scottish Ministers following public consultation on the options, the fisheries management options are currently still in development and we are open to discussions about how to reduce the impacts of these sites which are necessary to protect these 11 PMFs
  • a stakeholder stated that fishers believe that half of these sites do not exist, all the PMF sites have been towed by scallop dredgers for years and these features are still present, some of these areas will come down to a safety issues, as some of these sites are the only safe place to fish in poor weather, fishers have had enough of the cuts and it is happening every year
    • Marine Scotland stressed that information on each site, such as whether it provides sheltered fishing, will help up to develop fisheries management measures that seeks to minimise these impacts
  • several points were raised again highlighting:
    • impact is going to be horrific to Tarbert which is already suffering from multiple impacts including reduction on fleets and closures as a result of MPAs being implemented
    • financial impact from COVID-19 and EU exit is already impacting fishers, therefore the question should be raised of the timing of these measures and if this is the best time to be doing so, mental impacts associated with these changes should also be taken into account
    • safety issue raised again, the PMF areas are the only safe areas to fish in north west and implementing these restrictions will create safety issue
  • clarification required over why mobile sector is being targeted and why the damage from static gear is not being included
    • NatureScot stated that they recognised that static gear does have an impact but advice is based on level of risk, some features in question are so sensitive to abrasion, have given advice to static gear relative to PMFs, management is a precautionary approach and have taken the greater effects of mobile gear into the evidence
  • a stakeholder stated that MPAs are flawed and there is no such thing as static gear, as creels can be dragged around the seabed by the current and have a big impact on damaging the features, there will soon be no skilled fishers to fish, the previous minister removed the fishing areas and therefore removed livelihoods, fishers will seeks to discuss each point and area and how they will endanger lives
    • NatureScot advised that the evidence presented follows many years of collaborative research, nature conservation advice is provided using an evidence base that covers all types of fishing gears, some interactions happen more with certain gear than others and the extend of disturbance can be greater with mobile contacting fishing gear that with static 
    • this is why this project is focussed on this gear type, they recognised that static gear does have impacts and highlighted that efforts are being made to understand the effects of static gear on flame shell beds, to better understand the interactions of large mammals with static gears, and a review on static gear
  • a stakeholder stated that there is potential for increased static fishing upon removal of mobile gear should be considered in assessments, as if you remove mobile gear and allow static gear to fish there will be a complete exploitation of the area which may cause the same problems that we are trying to avoid through the removal of mobile gear
  • a stakeholder commented that mobile gear has lost the support of the public whilst creels continue to be unregulated, there is no call for the limit of static gear, which will cause an issue in the future as the demand on fish won’t provide the community with the same level of support compared with the mobile sector, the experience of the fishers should be brought into the social assessment, especially the sum of impacts and intensity of fishing
  • a question was raised on how much coverage of PMF protection is needed, does there need to be 100% protection of a site of have the percentages already been established? in addition what are the satisfactory thresholds to be protected?
  • there is unhappiness around the general process and the conversation is unfair at this time due to the effects of Brexit and COVID-19, understand that this timeline is already announced by ministers but is there not a way to feedback to ministers that the available timeframe is insufficient for fishers to engage with the process whilst they are simultaneously trying to keep their business afloat during these unprecedented hard times, this need to be acknowledged before rushing into finalising these management proposals and done in the right amount of time
  • a stakeholder stated that there is a feeling that this process is moving too fast, in the first round of MPAs everyone made a commitment to make them work, we need to see the justification of them working before restricting more fishing effort in the Clyde, we’ve established areas within the Clyde to protect certain features, but fishers are the most important features as their livelihoods are reliant on access to these grounds, how can anyone buy into the proposals when the original commitments have no evidence of them working
    • Marine Scotland are required to bring in fisheries management measures for the existing MPAs, these are not new MPA proposals, PMF management is being established due to requirements under the National Marine Plan, we are aware that the restrictions will affect fishers and cumulative impacts are a challenge, this is why we are having these discussion in order to try and minimise adverse impacts on all stakeholders, we are therefore trying to discuss these sites in order to provide necessary protection whilst simultaneously minimising the impacts on fishers
  • clarification required on how Marine Scotland justify existing MPAs, evidence needs to be shown of the success of the original suite of MPAs made available to all the major stakeholders before we can commit to additional management measures
    • Marine Scotland stated that conversation objectives and associated extent of necessary protection differs depending on the feature, in a wider context monitoring is required by the legislation and results will become available in due course as well as the results from the various projects, protection for PMFs is a ministerial commitment, implemented after the Loch Carron event whereby legal fishing damaged flame shells, in order to protect features outside of MPAs, this engagement is therefore an opportunity to gather information on how the proposals might affect the fishing industry
  • a stakeholder stated that there was a commitment from Marine Scotland to review the impacts of the first round of MPA management after five years which needs to be honoured so that we can understand the impacts on the fishing industry before introducing more spatial management
  • a stakeholder stated that these proposals are putting more pressure of the fishing industry, it is contradictory for new starts to be encouraged into the sector whilst simultaneously restricting the fishery
  • clarification required about what are the recovery objectives of the PMF sites
  • a stakeholder stated that the information on the monitoring of these sites and the reviews conducted still needs to be released, even if no changed occurred following introduction of fisheries management in MPAs
    • Marine Scotland commented that scientific monitoring of MPAs is carried out by NatureScot and Marine Scotland and the next report of this monitoring is due to be published in 2024
    • Marine Scotland highlighted that it is imperative that we develop protection/risk and could be taken to court if we do not fulfil legal obligations
  • clarification over who would take Marine Scotland to court about these management measures 
    • Marine Scotland stated that for the MPAs, the government is liable for legal action under the agreement with the EU and also there is a right to challenge, as with anyone else, under the Marine Scotland Act, Marine Scotland have a legal requirement under that law to protect the sites which have already been designated, which is why it legally necessary to implement appropriate fisheries management in these sites
  • clarification required if there are likely to be additional PMF areas
    • Marine Scotland stated that the PMF management areas represent all the protection which is proposed for protecting known PMF records and distribution, although, this does not represent all the current records, these sites are the key records and most sensitive sites, identified to provide the 11 PMFs most at risk of mobile bottom-contacting fishing gear
  • a stakeholder stated that conservation restoration projects especially of oysters and seagrasses are also occurring, will these areas, if successful, be designated as PMFs/MPAs later on? Marine Scotland are not recognising this work and the potential future impacts to the sector


  • Marine Scotland to share South of Arran monitoring reports when available

Discussion on proposed PMF fisheries management measures

Marine Scotland attempted to move on to talk about the sites for discussions.

Sites for discussion include:

PMF areas:

  • Ardlamont Point, Argyll
  • Gourock
  • Inchmarnock
  • Kyles of Bute
  • Loch a’Chnuic and Ardilistry, Islay
  • Loch Craignish
  • Loch Eil
  • Loch Indaal, Islay
  • Loch Long (Upper)
  • Loch Tarbert, Jura
  • Merkland, Arran
  • NE Gigha
  • Poll Attach, N Mull
  • Port Appin
  • Port Ellen to Ardbeg, Islay
  • Sannox, Arran
  • Skipness Point, Argyll
  • Sound of Iona
  • Sound of Islay
  • SW Bute
  • Ulva and Loch na Keal
  • West Loch Tarbert

MPA areas

  • Clyde Sea Sill MPA
  • Solway Firth

Only Ardlamont point was briefly discussed but not in detail due to time constraints and lack of progression on discussing the sites.

Key discussion points on Ardlamont point

  • Ardlamount point is a site that is fished particularly in N/NW winds for protection and could be a safety issue
  • Fisher not present worked in Ardlamont point over four days during the past fortnight
  • question raised about why these features are still there if they have managed to be towed after this length of time?
    • NatureScot stated it is not just evidence on presence of absence data which is relevant to these sites but also the condition of the site itself and the role of the ecosystem services they provide

Conclusions, next steps and close

Marine Scotland thanked those who had provided plotter data already and requested further plotter data be provided in order for Marine Scotland to review and feed into the process going forward. The fisheries data is important for the sites in order to understand adverse impacts and try to mitigate these as much as possible.

Marine Scotland will consider how discussions for the remaining sites should be taken forward. 

The chair thanked the attendees for coming to the meeting and the meeting was then closed.

Meeting drawn to a close at 9pm.

Agenda items four and five were not completed during this meeting.

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