Seafood sector leaders including Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott, centre, outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood today.

Salmon farmers join fishers and processors to challenge HPMA plans

‘Seafood Coalition’ launches petition calling for Scottish Government to ‘follow the science’


Scotland’s salmon farmers have joined forces with fishers to challenge the proposed SNP/Green ban on commercial activities in substantial stretches of coastal waters.

Trade body Salmon Scotland, together with six other major seafood organisations representing hundreds of vessels and processors, has launched a petition at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh.

The united plea urges the Scottish Government to drop its current plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).

Instead, the ‘Seafood Coalition’ calls for ministers to “follow the science” and develop an evidence-based approach that considers all pressures on the marine environment in a balanced manner.

The coalition includes the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Seafood Scotland, Scottish Association of Fish Producers’ Organisations, Community Fisheries Inshore Alliance and Scottish Seafood Association.

Bute House Agreement

The Scottish Government’s proposals are part of the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party. The Greens have agreed to vote for the minority SNP administration’s legislation in the Scottish Parliament in return for influence over the government’s policy and two ministerial posts.

The Bute House Agreement stated that at least 10% of Scotland’s seas should become HPMAs by 2026, including restrictions on human activities like aquaculture and fishing.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, joined other coalition members at Holyrood today to highlight the crucial role of coastal communities can play in signing the petition to ensure their voices are heard.

The petition also asks for a review of the results from the current marine protected areas (MPAs) that already cover 228,118 km², or 37%, of Scotland’s seas. Salmon Scotland said one in three salmon farms already operates responsibly in MPAs, with many of these areas being established after the farms were already in operation.

The petition also suggests learning from the pilot programs of HPMAs in other UK waters.

'Scant justification for HPMAs'

Scott said: “Scottish salmon and Scottish seafood are the best in the world, but HPMAs put this global success story at risk. We must stand united to ensure our collective voice is heard loud and clear.

“There is scant scientific justification for the proposed HPMAs, and an outright ban on responsible sea activities is not the solution. The sustainable growth of our salmon farms and other sectors is vital for the well-being of our coastal communities, the overall economy, and the vision of the Scottish Government.

“These proposals present a significant threat to our rural way of life, and opposition is growing both inside and outside of Holyrood. That’s why we have joined forces with other seafood organisations to launch this petition, urging ministers to adopt an evidence-based approach that protects both the environment and the livelihoods of hardworking Scots.

'Evidence, science, and facts'

“We encourage everyone to sign the petition and show their support for sustainable and fair policies that benefit our marine environment and coastal communities.

“The Scottish Government must base its decisions on evidence, science, and facts, rather than pandering to political pressures and appeasing campaign groups funded to undermine our sector.”

Those wishing to sign the petition can do so when it becomes available on the Scottish Parliament’s website.

Full text of the petition

Scotland’s government and seafood businesses share the same goal – healthy, productive seas for a healthy and productive economy. This requires responsible and sustainable use allowing natural resources to thrive, balancing food production and nature conservation. It should be supported by continued advancement of knowledge through improved science and evidence.

We call upon the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to:

  • Drop the current policy that commits the Scottish Government to designate “… a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas …” outlined in the Bute House agreement – it’s the wrong approach, designed for the wrong reasons.
  • Follow the science - develop an evidence-based approach that analyses the potential issues to inform policy outcomes that can demonstrably achieve the Scottish Government’s objectives of protecting the marine environment and enabling coastal communities and our world-class seafood sector to thrive. This approach should be led independently.
  • Evaluate what’s already been achieved with the existing marine protected area (MPA) network, covering 37% of Scottish waters, and their effect in achieving intended outcomes.
  • Learn from HPMA pilots in other UK waters.
  • Build a plan together through a collaborative and constructive approach between government and stakeholders to devise a science-based scheme that has genuine buy-in across all stakeholders.