Response from Fergus Ewing c/o Sebastian Howell on 25th April ( ref: 2017/0012203)
Thank you for your letter of the 28th March 2017 to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity regarding the Wester Ross MPA. I have been asked to respond on his behalf.
First of all I would like to wish you congratulations on the first anniversary of the Wester Ross MPA. It is an iconic MPA and we are very pleased to have your support in making sure the MPA fulfils its potential. We hope that the wider benefits to society are able to be realised of the MPA in time.
The socioeconomic effects of the MPAs are still being investigated. At the national level, there is no evidence to-date of significant socioeconomic impacts that could be attributed to the introduction of MPA management measures. This is consistent with evidence provided by Marine Scotland prior to the introduction of MPA management measures.
It is possible that the various marine sectors are still adjusting to the introduction of MPA management measures. Key informant interviews and case studies suggest that at the local level socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures could increase over time as various sectors fully adapt to the measures; the productivity of available fishing grounds change due to a shift in fishing pressure; and, as further management measures are introduced.
With regards to fish farms Scotland’s National Marine Plan sets a vision for an aquaculture industry that is sustainable, diverse, competitive, economically viable and which contributes to food security whilst minimising environmental impact. On 30 March 2017 a joint statement – endorsed by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity and Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform – was published to articulate the Scottish Government’s vision for a sustainable and competitive aquaculture sector.
Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ www.gov.scot/marinescotland
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Fish farm operations are controlled by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) with the aim of preventing pollution, through the application of environmental standards. SEPA sets specific requirements through permit conditions on what may be discharged by fish farms into the water environment, such as medicines, by placing limits on the scale or rate of release of such pollutants.
As part of its new Regulatory Strategy SEPA has set out new sectoral approaches to supporting and raising compliance, and aquaculture is one of the identified suite of sectors. SEPA will be working closely with the sector over the coming months to further develop its approach to the regulation of the sector, to support the industry whilst achieving River Basin Management Plan targets.
In relation to socioeconomic impacts of fish farms, as fish farms were not directly affected by the new management measures they were not the main focus of the socio-economic analysis, but questioned on any indirect effects, of which very little was reported. The data on this sector is also in the report (pg. 24). We do not currently have any additional information on the socio-economic links between aquaculture and MPAs.
I hope this provides a helpful summary of our views on the subjects raised in your letter and look forward to continuing working with you on the Wester Ross MPA.
Sebastian Howell Policy Adviser