Planning Scotland's Seas: Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas. Consultation Analysis Report

Planning Scotland’s Seas: Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas was published for consultation in July 2013. It set out proposals for a number of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Independent analysis of written consultation responses was

9 Other Comments

9.1 The final consultation question asked 'Do you have any other comments on the case for designation, management options, environmental or socioeconomic assessments of the p MPAs, or the network as a whole? ' .

9.2 One hundred and eighteen respondents, including 44 individuals as well as 74 organisations across groups, submitted comments at this question or included letters, reports or other information with their submission; a further 75 individuals submitted a campaign plus response [5] and 2,615 campaign submissions also included an answer to this question.

The Skye to Mull search area

9.3 Fourteen individuals, two local groups and one recreation/ tourism respondent submitted the same or very similar text voicing disappointment that a Skye to Mull MPA was not included in the consultation and asking that the Skye-Mull search area, including Tiree, be designated as a nature conservation Marine Protected Area.

Network campaign

9.4 Submissions from one of the large network campaigns (2,615 submissions) included the following text:

The Scottish Government has a legal obligation to enhance Scotland's seas and, according to international recommendations, the MPA network must support the wider marine environment. For each MPA, effective management must therefore be in place so that species and habitat recovery is possible both within and beyond the boundaries of the site. Zonal management that protects only the remnant extent of marine species and habitats, particularly of vulnerable benthic features, is not enough given the context of ecological decline documented in Scotland's Marine Atlas.

Other comments

9.5 Many respondents provided background information on their organisation or their involvement with MPA proposals. Several offered additional information or further advice or support. There was appreciation for the work already carried out towards the MPA network by the Scottish Government and its agencies and acknowledgement of the importance of marine conservation.

9.6 Many others restated points made at earlier question in relation to specific p MPAs.

9.7 Comments from a large number of the individuals related to the need to include seabirds. Many individuals commented on the importance of MPAs.

9.8 A wide range of other comments were included in responses and these are summarised below:

9.9 Several aquaculture respondents commented on the importance of management options as a starting point for the process of "establishing how current activities and protected species and features interact."

9.10 An academic/ scientific respondent asked that socioeconomic assessments include "consideration of the marine historic environment."

9.11 Energy respondents were concerned and uncertain over the quality and availability of data on the distribution of protected features and on the criteria which will be applied in determining 'no significant risk'. They also had some concerns over the application of management measures. These respondents pointed out that should particular p MPAs be designated this would mean having to reapply for project consent leading to uncertainty for investors. Some commented "If the UK and Scottish Governments wish to meet the ambitious renewable energy targets this uncertainty requires to be addressed."

9.12 These respondents challenged some of the general principles in the Management Handbook, specifically MPAs integrated with wider marine management and Possible MPA identification uses best scientific information. Respondents felt "'best available evidence' could disproportionately affect offshore renewable energy locations which often have higher quality data coverage than the wider marine area."

9.13 These respondents also sought confirmation that existing licences will not be revoked or varied while another from this group asked "if an application is determined prior to MPA designation but construction does not commence until after MPA designation what impact will this have?"

9.14 Other comments from the energy group included:

  • that it would be inappropriate and misleading to remove the SPA/ SAC/ SSSI/ NC MPA label and refer to all sites as an MPA as Nature Conservation MPAs are not SPAs or SACs and the distinction must be clear.
  • the need for "further analysis quantifying the potential socioeconomic costs of individual proposed designations and the proposed network as a whole specifically with regard to the potential effects on project delay, restrictions or failure to proceed."
  • the need for guidance on how to assess potential impacts and on what style assessment will be expected.

9.15 Many of the environment/conservation respondents commented and the main themes covered by these responses were:

  • The need to protect fish stocks in the Clyde.
  • That the MPA networks must be fully integrated with the National Marine Plan.
  • The need to designate MPAs for seabirds.
  • The need to ensure decisions are made in close consultation with local communities.
  • The need to consider how undesignated geodiversity interests will be addressed and consideration of the management of geodiversity interests inshore.
  • The need for assessment of the costs of not designating an MPA.
  • A balanced socioeconomic assessment that includes the benefits of other sectors such as eco-tourism.
  • For overall population status to be considered when setting objectives.
  • That a precautionary approach should be taken when the condition of a feature is unknown.
  • That the conserve objective should only be used in cases where a protected feature is in a good condition.
  • Clarity on the progress of Research and Demonstration MPAs.
  • The need for collecting baseline data for various species and for better fisheries data to inform consultations with the various sectors in the fishing industry.
  • Some voiced support for MPA site management measures to be statutory.
  • The need for buffer zones.
  • That SACs should remain distinct from MPAs.

9.16 Respondents from industry and transport commented on the need to better understand how the network, including SPAs, SACs and SSSIs, and management measures will work in practice and how any changes will be consulted on.

9.17 A respondent from the international fisheries group said Scotland should follow the procedure adopted by Spain when dealing with EU community waters; proposing to the Commission that measures to protect the marine environment are taken up in the common fisheries regulations. This respondent also commented on possible effects on other areas should the Spanish fleet be displaced.

9.18 Local authority respondents raised the need for further consideration of local impacts and submitted a number of specific concerns about particular areas.

9.19 The respondents from the mobile fishing group submitted lengthy and detailed responses containing objections and concerns both over the proposals and the uncertainty caused by unknown consequences of the MPA proposals. One said: "It is unfair to ask any commercial organisation or business to agree and sign up to MPAs without first knowing definitively, how this will affect their activities".

9.20 There were again comments that the data and scientific evidence used in the proposals is flawed; one of this group said "Until such time as credible, scientific, peer reviewed evidence is available it will be impossible to make such judgements." There was also concern that evidence for designation of the MPAs has not been science-led.

9.21 There were requests for more details on what management measures will actually mean for the fishing vessels and who will make final decisions about what level of reduction will be required in each area.

9.22 Respondents stressed the need to include and involve local people in any discussions and decisions and there were again comments on the importance of the fishing industry to the island and other local communities.

9.23 A number of respondents commented that many of the features which will be protected by the various p MPAs are already protected by other legislation. There were also comments that many of the features do not qualify under the OSPAR threatened/declining definitions.

9.24 One respondent said they acknowledged that "designation of an MPA by itself does not affect fishing but the control measures which are being suggested by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee will substantially, and quite unnecessarily, reduce fishing in Scotland's Seas endangering, at one and the same time, employment and well-being, in coastal Scotland and the Country's food security."

9.25 An academic respondent asked that socioeconomic assessments include consideration of the marine historic environment.

9.26 There was welcome for the opportunity to respond to the consultation from an 'other' organisation that commented on the importance of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Area to enhance and protect the marine environment. This respondent was keen to see protection for some other species and commented on one in particular: "Whilst we recognise that none of the proposed MPAs will be specifically designated for Atlantic salmon or sea trout, we believe that there will be additional benefits to these species during the marine phase of their life cycle. We also believe that following designation, and where appropriate, consideration should be given to introducing management measures for these species (which are in themselves are Priority Marine Features)". Another organisation from this group commented: "The value of protecting seabed habitats for fisheries management purposes needs to be better understood."

9.27 Public bodies welcomed the consultation and said that decisions need to be made on the best available evidence. This group said that management options need to be practical, proportionate and should deliver their objectives "without overburdening current and future users of the marine environment". There were calls for individual BRIAs for each site and some specific points were made about work that has already been carried out in these areas that may need taken into account, for example in improvements to water quality.

9.28 There was comment on the need to continue to work with other countries where MPAs are near territorial borders.

9.29 There was a small amount of concern from the recreation/ tourism group, mostly that measures may limit some activities and therefore tourism, for example anchoring or mooring restrictions. This group commented on the importance of tourism to the fragile economies of rural and island communities.

9.30 Respondents from the static fishing group were optimistic about the success of the network; there was also a comment on the need for spatial limits for mobile fishing.


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