Local MSP John Finnie, Scottish Greens has called on the Scottish Government to boost its marine and fisheries protection fleet.
The Scottish Government has just three vessels to monitor, enforce, and protect its huge marine area. A lack of sufficient monitoring allowed scallop dredgers to inflict considerable damage on the fragile marine environment at Loch Carron.
The Welsh Government has recently commissioned a fleet of five new compliance vessels, which are being built in Wales. When asked if it was right that Wales, with its relatively small marine area, has a larger fleet than Scotland, Roseanna Cunningham, The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform in the Scottish Government said:
“First, the review that my colleague Fergus Ewing and I referred to is the constant review under which we keep such issues. I think that the member will also recall that, in my reply, I mentioned that we have two surveillance aircraft and also make regular use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, which adds considerably to our surveillance capacity.
“As I understand it, the Welsh Government is indeed in the process of buying new boats, but they are considerably smaller than the boats that are in the Marine Scotland fleet and are of a very different order of technology, so it is not a like-for-like comparison.”
John Finnie said:
“The Scottish Marine Zone covers a huge area, and 20% of this is supposed to be specially protected as part of the Marine Protection Network. It is simply not possible for Marine Scotland to adequately protect Scotland’s seas with only three vessels. The Cabinet Secretary says her ships are bigger than the Welsh Government’s, this is a ridiculous response to a serious problem.
“There are many matters relating to our marine environment which require constant vigilance and it quite simply is not possible for three vessels to cover such a vast area, particularly in light of an increased number of marine protected areas. There is little point in affording vulnerable areas protected status, if you don’t increase your monitoring and enforcement capacity as well.
“Fisheries are of course extremely important for many remote, rural and island communities and, particularly in light of the UK’s exit from the EU, and potential increase in the Scottish Government’s responsibilities in this area, as well as the potential increased conflict that a change to fishing rights may bring, it has never been more important to ensure our waters are adequately protected.
“The Scottish Ministers must engage with these communities and act urgently to provide the necessary protections.”
You can view the question and answer here