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20 December 2016

 CALL FOR ACTION TO AVOID CONFLICT IN SCOTTISH SEAS

Conflict over limited marine resources could be avoided as Scotland’s seas get busier, if sea-users and marine industries worked together to better manage competing demands, groups said today (Wed 28 Dec).

The call by WWF Scotland and the Celtic Seas Partnership follows a report [1] highlighting that as competition for space and resources in Scottish seas grows, so does the likelihood of conflict between stakeholders, with areas including the West of Scotland flagged as a potential future hotspot.

The groups have highlighted two UK examples where industry and local communities have been working together and reaping the benefits.  They include:

- The Shetland Islands’ Marine Spatial Plan:  An initiative bringing together fishermen, environmental bodies, heritage groups and planners to develop agreed guidance for the use and management of the seas around Shetland; [2]

- Fishing for Data: An initiative to develop a strategy to empower the fishing industry to collect data from commercial fishing vessels to improve the effectiveness of scientific assessments of the marine environment. [3]  

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said:

“Scotland has always been fairly progressive when it comes to managing the important shared resource that are our seas. However, with studies suggesting that Scotland’s marine resources will come under ever increasing pressure over the coming years, it’s important that we take steps now to address the challenges we might face.

“Thanks to some innovative collaborative approaches already happening here, we strongly believe that it will be possible to avoid a rise in conflict between sea-users even as competition for space and resources in Scottish seas grows.”

Dr Jenny Oates, Celtic Seas Partnership project manager, said:

“Scottish waters are set to face increasing demands for space. With a balanced approach to managing our seas, taking into account the environment and the well-being of our communities, these waters can be a huge asset to the Scottish economy.

“The Scottish Government has gone some way to addressing this by producing the first ever National Marine Plan. [4] This envisaged a whole network of 11 regional marine plans around Scotland.

“However, so far the only operational regional marine planning partnerships are in Shetland and the Clyde. The Shetland Islands Marine Spatial Plan was designated as a pilot area, and the Scottish Government has confirmed it intends to use it to develop regional marine planning partnerships around the rest of Scotland’s coast.”

Shetland fisherman Simon Collins, from the Shetland Fisherman’s Association said:

“While conflicting demands for sea space are probably inevitable, conflict is not. We’ve found in Shetland that sensible outcomes can be reached when there is a clear understanding of the local community’s economic and cultural foundations, sound science and a genuine willingness to talk. Crucially, the Advisory Group overseeing the Plan’s development has always proceeded by consensus - never a vote. The sea is too important to us to be left to ideological or partisan squabbling.”    

Notes to Editors

[1] Celtic Seas Partnership Future Trends report

http://celticseaspartnership.eu/get-involved/future-trends-in-the-celtic-seas/

The study looks at three scenarios for the next 20 years, finding that under every scenario the seas are set to get significantly busier. Without a more balanced approach to managing the marine environment this could lead to more conflict between sectors and substantial impacts on the marine environment. 

The West Coast of Scotland, South Wales and the Irish Sea are identified as hotspots where economic activity is likely to be particularly intense

[2] Living with the Seas Report  (Shetland Island Marine Spatial Plan pg 10)

http://www.scotlink.org/wp/files/documents/Living_with_the_Seas_2016_ScotLINK_web.pdf

[3] Fishing for Data

The Celtic Seas Partnership (CSP) is developing  a strategy to empower the fishing industry to collect data from commercial fishing vessels to improve the effectiveness of scientific assessments of the marine environment. Achieving marine environmental goals in UK and EU waters will require engagement between sectors and across borders.  Harnessing the industrial fishing fleet to provide data and evidence will help achieve environmental targets.

[4] National Marine Plan

http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/03/6517