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Fair Isle community welcomes public consultation on its proposal for a new marine protected area.
1 March 2016 – Members of the public are being asked to give their views on a proposal for a new marine protected area (MPA) as part of a public consultation opening today.
The proposal has been developed by the Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI) on behalf of all residents of the isle, and other MPA stakeholders, and asks for the designation of a Demonstration and Research MPA. This kind of MPA differs from the other nature conservation MPAs recently designated within Scotland’s seas in that it would not be built around specific biodiversity features but rather would be targeted toward demonstrating or carrying out research on sustainable methods of marine management.
If designated, the Fair Isle Demonstration and Research MPA would be the first of its kind in Scotland.
Richard Luxmoore, Senior Nature Conservation Adviser for the National Trust for Scotland, explains, “The designation would provide an opportunity for Scotland to demonstrate the value of this novel and innovative form of marine protection to the wider world.”
FIMETI, set up in 1995, is a partnership between the Fair Isle community, the National Trust for Scotland and the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust. The initiative was established to work toward the long-term protection and sustainable management of the seas around the isle. FIMETI originally submitted the MPA proposal to Marine Scotland (the government department responsible for the management of Scotland’s seas) in December 2011.
The public consultation marks a major milestone for FIMETI, and for sustainable marine management in the area. Speaking about the news, FIMETI’s coordinator Nick Riddiford said, “I am delighted that 25 years of community effort to safeguard our seas has reached this milestone. Its goal as the first Demonstration and Research MPA in Scotland is to pilot a partnership approach towards sustainable marine management of benefit to all.
“The sea plays a huge role in the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of the isle. The designation would make a big difference for Fair Isle.”
There is a dual focus behind the Fair Isle MPA proposal; to establish robust research focused on migratory sea bird population decline and to demonstrate the social and economic value of a healthy marine environment to the Fair Isle community and other stakeholders.
The whole community of Fair Isle recognises that the fishing industry is vital to both Shetland and Scotland, and wants it to survive and prosper into the future; therefore a partnership approach is built into the fabric of the proposal.
Speaking on behalf of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Leslie Tait added “We’re quite happy to be part of the steering committee to investigate and come forward with ideas and proposals, but also to listen to others.”
Therefore as well as the ecological and socio-economic values the MPA is anticipated to bring, it also has the potential to be an important example of collaborative management within Scottish seas - with the community, commercial fishermen, research institutes and many others all on board.”
Fiona Mitchell, Fair Isle Community Councillor, emphasised the importance of the public consultation, saying, “The Fair Isle community has long advocated an MPA and we are delighted to see it move into the next stage of public consultation. Thanks to islanders, supporters, and new alliances with fishermen, this is an aspiration that has become a reality.”