Transition from FIMETI to FIMRO (Fair Isle Marine Research Organisation)
27 February 2019

Transition from FIMETI to FIMRO

Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI) has served its purpose: seeking a sustainable management programme which safeguards Fair Isle’s marine resource for future generations, on and off the isle. It took 27 years to arrive at a demonstration and research Marine Protected Area (drMPA) but that is only the first stage. A more suitable body was needed to take the process forward and this is now in place: Fair Isle Marine Research Organisation (FIMRO). The following text explains the transition.

Following the successful application for a demonstration and research marine protected area in Fair Isle waters in October 2016, work began on creating the governance and administrative structures necessary for implementing the project objectives. Members of the strategic steering committee had been identified and agreed as part of the application process, enabling a fairly rapid progression to a first meeting of the committee in March 2017 to agree terms of reference and initial project objectives, followed by a formal launch of the marine protected area on Fair Isle in the summer. This pattern of twice yearly meetings, one on Shetland mainland, where the majority of steering committee members are based, and one on Fair Isle to support the community-led nature of the project, has since been adopted as regular practice.

The Fair Isle MPA is first and foremost a community initiative and it is therefore of paramount importance that the community remains a strong voice on the Steering Committee. To this end, it was agreed that the project officer post designed to support the day to day work of the MPA , should be managed by the Fair Isle community. As the initial isle partnership responsible for the successful application, the Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI), lacked a suitable legal structure for this, a new charitable organisation Fair Isle Marine Research Organisation [SCIO] was established by isle residents, formally replacing FIMETI as a Steering Committee member in 2018. This paves the way for the employment of a Project Officer and enables the community to carry out its own projects relating to the Fair Isle marine environment during the lifetime of the MPA and beyond.

Whilst the initial set up of the Steering Committee has proved very successful, with stakeholders working well together, and supporting a developing research programme centred around the Fair Isle marine and coastal environment, creating the necessary structures at a community level has been less straightforward. In this instance the key constraint has been the time required to set up a new charitable organisation and suitable conditions for employing a project officer. Small communities are not necessarily lacking in skills, but are often by their nature time-poor, and starting from a lower baseline in terms of the necessary human resources infrastructure than established organisations. Support from external partners, primarily Fauna and Flora International, Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland, has been vital to continuing the process. There is no doubt that creating a project officer post would be achieved more rapidly if taken on by a larger stakeholder on the Steering Committee and small community organisations should not underestimate the time required to become independent and sustainable. That said, since one of the key aspects of the Fair Isle marine protected area has been to demonstrate a bottom-up approach to local resource management, the commitment to ensuring the Fair Isle marine protected area remains rooted in the community is integral to the project as a whole.  

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