Eleanor Scott, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, is supporting requests by Shetlanders for more authority to manage local marine resources in a sustainable way, through regulating orders or a Shetland-wide marine national park.
After talks with the Shetland Fish Producersʼ Organisation, the Shetland Islands Council and individuals involved in marine tourism, during a visit to Shetland last week, Dr Scott said: “Shetlanders want to have more direct local control over their marine environment and I fully support them in this. We have two legal means available to achieve more local control: one is through regulating orders, and the other is by establishing a marine national park, with a park authority led by local stakeholders. Both would be steps in the right direction.”
Dr Scott, who has argued in the Scottish Parliament in support for the Fair Isle communityʼs desire for a marine national park, said, “I have been backing the Fair Isle communityʼs aspirations for the past year, and now interest is growing for a Shetland-wide park, which I think could be very exciting and offer tremendous opportunities for local communities.”
Dr Scott discussed the current regulating order covering shellfish in coastal waters around Shetland with Brian Isbister of the Shetland Fish Producersʼ Organisation. She said: “The regulating order has given people a taste for local management. It may not be perfect, but it does allow local fishermen to exclude third parties, such as the nomadic scallop dredgers and crabbers, and as a result they stand a much better chance of achieving sustainable management of their environment. I understand that there are discussions to extend the current powers and I hope that the Scottish Executive will support these local initiatives in influencing decisions. We need to make the most of these local measures to strengthen sustainable fisheries management, within the over-arching framework of the European Common Fisheries Policy.”
During her visit Dr Scott also met with Austin Taylor, conservation manager with Shetland Islands Council, to learn about Shetlandʼs biodiversity action planning process, which has included the marine environment. She also learned from local naturalist, Dr Jonathan Wills, about how important Shetlandʼs inshore waters are as nursery areas and habitats for many species.
Dr Scott said: “Whatever models are used to achieve better local management, it is vital that conserving marine biodiversity plays a major part. There are problems at the moment, particularly destructive dredging and pollution from fish farms, but most fishermen have just as strong a commitment to sustainable management of resources as conservationists do. I am also impressed by how keen the fishermen are to co-operate with scientists. I think it would be very positive to see them all working together within a marine national park authority for Shetland.”
(Note: this item was originally published on Eleanor Scott’s Parliamentary website.)