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HPMA Consultation Response

By April 18, 2023News

In line with many other organisations from the West Coast of Scotland, Mallaig Harbour Authority has submitted a response to the consultation on HPMAs (Highly Protected Marine Areas), which closed on Monday 17th April. In submitting our response, we have tried to take account of the views of stakeholders using the Harbour as well as pertinent issues for ourselves as a Harbour Authority. While we recognise the need for management of our seas and coastal resources, we have concerns about the proposals contained in the HPMA consultation, and the potential effects of these. You can read our full response below:

Question 1. What is your view of the aims and purpose of Highly Protected Marine Areas as set out in sections 2 and 3 of the draft Policy Framework?

Position: Neutral

As a port on the West Coast of Scotland, servicing a number of small rural communities, and surrounded by Marine Protected Areas, we recognise the need for protection of marine features and the sustainable use of our marine resources. However, we have a concern that not enough detail on the proposed areas and the implications of these is included in the consultation. Mallaig has historically been a fishing port, and has diversified to service the Aquaculture industry, both of which are important both economically and socially to Mallaig and the surrounding communities. There is not enough detail available in the Policy Framework on how HPMAs will be defined and therefore on what the impact on our coastal communities will be. Until this has been established, we could not support the creation of HPMAs which could be significantly detrimental to the communities we serve. Mallaig is currently surrounded by MPAs, which ‘have been developed around the concept of sustainable use, allowing activities that do not adversely affect the protected features to continue’. Our concern is that the proposals for HPMAs, which are intended to deliver improved conservation outcomes, may do so without due consideration for the associated economic and social impacts on the country’s remote and rural coastal communities.  

Question 2. What is your view of the effectiveness of the approaches to manage the activities listed below, as set out in section 6 of the draft Policy Framework, in order to achieve the aims and purpose of HPMAs?

  • Commercial fishing – Oppose.
  • Recreational fishing – Oppose.
  • All other recreational activities – Oppose.
  • Finfish aquaculture – Oppose.
  • Shellfish agriculture – Oppose.
  • Seaweed harvesting – Oppose.
  • Oil and gas sector – neutral
  • Renewable energy – Oppose.
  • Carbon capture, utilisation and storage – neutral.
  • Subsea cables – neutral.
  • Aggregate extraction – neutral.
  • Ports and harbours – Strongly Oppose.
  • Shipping and ferries – neutral.
  • Military and defence – neutral.
  • Hydrogen production – Oppose.
  • Space ports – neutral.

Comments:

The lack of detail, and evidence-based analysis in the consultation makes it difficult to meaningfully answer the questions above. However, Mallaig Harbour Authority are concerned that the proposals contained in the consultation to ban commercial fishing and shellfish agriculture completely within HPMAs fails take into account the small scale sustainable fishing and aquaculture which is a key part of many rural economies.  It is difficult to reconcile the proposals contained in the consultation with the government’s own ambition to grow the blue economy. Whilst larger operators, in both the fishing and aquaculture industry, can relocate if proposals are brought forward, this is not the case for the smaller, less intensive, inshore fisheries undertaken over much of the West Coast.

In terms of renewable energy, the consultation again focuses on large-scale renewable energy developments and does not take into account potential small scale developments – often community-led – which support the economic sustainability of coastal and island communities, and can contribute to energy security and decarbonisation. As a Harbour, we would hope that any significant future developments undertaken would incorporate some form of renewable energy generation, for local usage. We also recognise our position as a hub for the Small Isles and Knoydart, all of whom have ambitions for ‘greening’ their communities, and the future opportunities for our community to benefit from the use of hydrogen, the production of which may be banned within our area if an HPMA was designated locally. 

Question 3. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.2 of the draft Policy Framework: “Allow for activities to be prohibited from the point of designation to afford high levels of protection.”

Position: Oppose

Without information on the selection criteria for the proposed HPMAs, and more detail on the proposed management tools for HPMAs then it is difficult to have a meaningful view on the proposed additional powers. However, some general comments are included below.

Many of the West Coast Communities in Scotland rely heavily on fishing and aquaculture to sustain their communities, whether through local job opportunities or through opportunities within other rural communities. The social and economic impact arising from the loss of even a small number of jobs in these key sectors may have a much wider impact on these communities and this is not taken into account anywhere in the consultation. This economic impact will also have wider consequences in terms of food security and efforts to reduce reliance on imports and encourage local food production as part of decarbonisation strategies. The same could be said of proposed powers to limit renewable development, and it is important that a distinction is made between large scale renewables, and community-led micro-renewables, or those proposed by SMEs as part of their business effort to decarbonise.

The consultation suggests that some recreational activities will be permitted at carefully managed levels, but again no detail is available on what this will mean in practice. People enjoy the seas around the West Coast in many different ways, most of which have no impact on the ecology, and this needs to be factored in to any decision making.

Any additional powers proposed need to be implemented after careful consideration of all the factors, environmental, social and economic.

Question 4. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.3 of the draft Policy Framework: “Establish processes to permit certain limited activities within a HPMA on a case-by-case basis for specified reasons.”

Position: Oppose

Whilst we recognise that some additional powers will be required in order to effectively manage resources, the proposal to establish processes which will require a permit on a case by case basis would suggest a level of bureaucracy which will be difficult to manage, resource and police.

Any exemptions proposed should fit within a framework that is easy to understand and manage in order to minimise time and expense complying with regulations.

Question 5. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.4 of the draft Policy Framework: “Activities which are not permitted in a HPMA but are justified in specified cases of emergency or force majeure.”

There will always be specific circumstances under which activities have to be permitted because of emergency or force majeure so our view is neutral on this.

Question 6. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.5 of the draft Policy Framework: “Measures for activities allowed and carefully managed in HPMAs.”

Position: neutral

Any additional powers should take into account existing use of the seas by our coastal and island communities, and the historical reasons for sites being chosen. Coastal and Island communities rely on income from the seas in many ways, including through low impact marine tourism, and this should not be restricted through additional powers unless there is very strong scientific evidence to support restrictions.

Any permit system needs to be easy to understand, manage and police, and low cost, otherwise it will become unwieldy and will be ignored.

Question 7. Do you have any further comments on the draft Policy Framework, which have not been covered by your answers to the previous questions?

No response.

Question 8. What is your view of the proposal that HPMA site identification should be based upon the “functions and resources of significance to Scotland’s seas,” as set out in Annex B of the draft Site Selection Guidelines?

Blue Carbon: – Support

Essential Fish Habitats: – Support

Strengthening the Scottish MPA network: – Support

Protection from storms and sea level rise: – Neutral

Research and education: – Neutral

Enjoyment and appreciation: – Support

Other important ecosystem services: – Support

HPMA site identification is key to the successful implementation. At the moment, no consideration is given to community requirements, and this should be factored into any decision making. It is important that site identification recognises the wider impact of designation, and the fact that there does not always need to be a blanket ban on activities to support ecological and environmental maintenance and improvement of resources.

Question 9. What is your view of the general principles that are intended to inform the approach to HPMA selection, as listed below and set out in section 4.1 of the draft Site Selection Guidelines?

use of a robust evidence base: – Strongly support

HPMA scale and the use of functional ecosystem units: – Support

ensuring added value: – Strongly support

delivering ecosystem recovery: – Support

The use of a robust evidence base is key to the selection of HPMAs, and is one of the most significant issues with the consultation as set out. Without a robust evidence base, which we have concerns does not exist at the moment for our rural coastal and island communities, the selection of HPMA sites could decimate these communities. Any site selection needs to recognise added value in terms of social and economic impact as well as environmental and ecological impact.

Question 10. What is your view of the proposed five-stage site selection process, found in sections 4.2 and 4.3 as well as Figure 2 and Annex A of the draft Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Oppose

The selection process makes reference to the fact that ‘The designation of HPMAs and the application of these site selection guidelines will take account of socio-economic factors affecting the resilience and viability of marine industries, coastal communities and other stakeholders. As a result, some proposals may be screened out of further consideration during the selection process. Designation by Scottish Ministers will be informed by a Sustainability Appraisal, including assessment of socio-economic impacts’. However, without significant further detail on this assessment and the results, we cannot support the selection process.  

Question 11. Do you have any further comments on the draft Site Selection Guidelines, which have not been covered by your answers to the previous questions?

No response

Question 12. What is your view of the Strategic Environmental Report, summarised within sections 3 and 4 of the Sustainability Appraisal, as an accurate representation of the potential impacts, issues and considerations raised by the introduction of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

While this is an accurate representation of the environmental impacts, it is important that it is not seen in isolation from the wider impacts which could result from the implementation of HPMAs

Question 13. What is your view of the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment, summarised within sections 3 and 4 of the Sustainability Appraisal, as an accurate representation of the potential impacts, issues and considerations raised by the introduction of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Strongly oppose

The Socio-Economic Impact identifies several sectors as having a high anticipated scale of impact. With this in mind, it is important that communities and industry groups have an opportunity to feed into site selection at an early stage and that their concerns are taken on board before the process proceeds.

Question 14. What is your view of the partial ICIA screening report as an accurate representation of potential impacts, raised by implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Strongly oppose

We strongly believe that the work carried out so far does not provide an accurate picture of the potential impacts in island communities for many of the reasons listed elsewhere. This is very likely down to the fact that no community level bodies or representative of community level bodies were included as stakeholders within the ‘partial’ ICIA.

As a Port servicing several islands, we see the impact of transporting food and other goods both on and off these islands. At a time when fuel prices are high, and there is much discussion about the carbon footprint associated with various industries, and about food security and the need for Britain to become more self-sufficient. The introduction of HPMAs may be detrimental to this if it restricts coastal and island communities from accessing local fish / seafood, either as part of traditional crofting activities or from local fishing businesses, and this is not made clear as part of the ICIA.

Question 15. Do you think that the implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines will have any significantly differential impacts – positive and/or negative – on island communities?

Position: Yes

As a port which services some of the smaller islands off the coast of Scotland, and has a diversified customer base, all reliant on our marine resources, our view is that not enough consideration has been given to the importance of the sea to all aspects of island life (and that of our remote coastal communities). The sea is central to our island communities – and they are heavily reliant on it for many aspects of their sustainability. The proposals for HPMAs could have significantly differential impacts on the economy, transport, decarbonisation, food security and culture of our islands. These should all be taken into account in any decision making.

Question 16. What is your view of the partial BRIA as an accurate representation of the potential impacts, issues and considerations raised by the implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Oppose

Stakeholder engagement to date seems to have been focussed on industry bodies, many of whom have publicly opposed the proposals. There has been no engagement with wider community organisations about the impact of proposals for these communities, or indeed with local authorities representing these communities. This would seem to be an oversight. The BRIA indicates that ‘the impacts will, therefore, not all be experienced within the area adjacent to the HPMA but potentially in numerous communities in a range of locations. It also states that ‘the impacts on communitiies….may include a direct impact to their economic welfare. We believe that much more detailed analysis needs to be undertaken on this before the introduction of HPMAs.

Question 17. Do you think that the implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines will have any financial, regulatory or resource implications – positive and/or negative – for you and/or your business?

Position: Yes

Question 18. If you answered “yes” to the previous question, please specify in the text box below, which of the proposals/actions you refer to and why you believe this would result in financial, regulatory or resource implications for your business.

Mallaig Harbour Authority is adjacent to a number of designated sites at the moment, and relies on income from aquaculture, fisheries and marine tourism, all of which could potentially be impacted by the introduction of HPMAs.

Question 19. Do you have any further thoughts on the Scottish Government’s commitment to introduce HPMAs to at least 10% of Scottish waters?

Mallaig Harbour Authority recognises the need for our marine resources to be effectively managed to ensure that these resources are sustainable and can continue to support the communities  who have benefited from their proximity to the sea throughout history. It is important that any implementation of HPMAs recognises that communities have always utilised the seas, albeit in a less intensive way than in some cases recently. Seafood and aquaculture are recognised as sustainable protein sources, and need to be managed as such. With this in mind, and selection of HPMAs should balance environmental ambition with a recognition of the importance of the socio-economic benefits of our rich marine resources, and the fragility of the communities surrounding our seas, particularly on the West Coast.

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