If approved, HPMAs will see swathes of Scotland’s coastal and inshore waters closed off to all fishing, aquaculture and infrastructure developments. By 2026, fishing will be banned in at least a tenth of Scottish waters.
This would mean Scotland’s island and coastal communities, where fishing and marine activities are critical for the local economies, will be devastated as centuries old industries will be forced to close and small inshore fishing boats will be permanently tied up in harbours and ports.
Responses from coastal communities
Angered by the proposals, Angus MacPhail wrote The Clearances Again fearing they will cause economic, social and cultural devastation. The song is written from the perspective of his good friend Donald Francis (DF) MacNeil from the Isle of Vatersay in the Western Isles. DF is a lifelong fisherman who has fished around Mingulay and the islands to the south of the Isle of Barra his whole life. This area and with it DF’s livelihood, is potentially a prime target for closing down. The song has now been recorded by Skipinnish featuring lead vocal by DF who sings the emotive and powerful lyrics.
Angus, who is originally from the Isle of Tiree but now fishes out of Barra, said: “These proposals cannot be allowed to go ahead. They must be opposed and sunk. They pose the biggest peacetime risk to our communities since the Highland Clearances and give zero regard to the effective local management of these waters.
“As DF sings at the end of The Clearances Again, ‘My song marks a fight for survival/A Mayday call we cry/We will stand for the rights of our children/We will not let our islands die’, this is a strong clarion call to everyone that holds the future of these communities dear to make their voices heard through the government’s consultation.”
DF MacNeil expressed his frustrations at the proposals. He commented: “Fishing has been my whole life. It supports my family and many in the community I have lived in since I was born. I know every reef, skerry and sandbank around these shores, better than any who are pushing these devastating proposals on us. For generations we have fished responsibly, taken only what’s sustainable and made sure we do not damage the industry that puts food on my family’s table.
“To be told by officials in Edinburgh that they know better than those of us in the fishing community is frankly insulting and proves they know nothing of how we operate and how fragile the economy of these communities is. For the sake of my children and those who will come after us, I will do everything I can to stand against these ill-conceived and badly planned proposals. HPMAs have only one objective – to devastate our rural, coastal communities and clear them of the indigenous people who have protected them for millennia. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
Angus MacPhail concluded: “If HPMAs are implemented people like DF will be forced to stay on land while they watch super trawlers on the horizon hoover up everything in their path with little regard for stock conservation or protection of the marine eco-system. There’s a huge irony in these proposals. They will actually be damaging to the environment because they miss the real targets that cause ocean damage. On the basis of flawed logic with no evidence coupled with short term political motivations, whole communities will be permanently wiped out overnight. It must be stopped.”
Tiree Community Council and the Tiree Community Development Trust have raised grave concerns in response to the Government’s Highly Protected Marine Areas consultation saying, “It is not an exaggeration to say that the designation of the waters used by the Tiree fishing fleet – from Skerryvore to the Cairns of Coll – as a Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA) poses an existential threat to the Tiree community.”
Tiree’s small harbour received a major upgrade in 2020, thanks to a £1.1 million investment from the Scottish Government, HIE and the Tiree Community Development Trust.
From two boats in 1995, the local fleet is now nine-strong providing 20 full-time jobs. The annual catch of crab and lobster has a value of around £1,000,000 and a quarter of the children in P4 and below come from fishing families.
Local fisherman Neil MacPhail said, “My boat alone puts food on the table for eleven people. One boat’s worth of economic impact is huge in a community such as Tiree. It’s the only industry in the island which has genuinely bucked the depopulation trend. If this landed on top of us, we would be wiped out overnight with one stroke of the pen on a chart.”
Tiree’s population at the 2011 Census had declined to 653, a 15% fall over the previous 10 years. The secondary school roll is now 30, and an increasing number of young people are choosing to transfer to Oban to complete their education.
Rhoda Meek, Chair of the Tiree Community Development Trust said, “Our island, as a thriving community, is perilously close to being non-viable. Social capital has been hollowed out and many voluntary committees are under strength. The Tiree community is hanging on by its fingertips. If the Tiree fleet cannot work local waters, there will be no fishing boats, no fishermen, and no fishing families. It will be the end of our community.”
The sea surrounds us. There’s barely a village that isn’t on the coast, and for good reason. As long as people have lived here, and that’s at least 7000years now, it’s been central to many for food, livelihood, or recreation. To say the sea is one of the Hebrides largest and most diverse assets, economic or otherwise, cannot be highlighted enough. I’m willing to wager that there’s not a family that doesn’t have a connection to it. It’s in the blood.
Unfortunately, access to this important resource is soon to be under threat through the Scottish governments HPMA (highly protected marine areas) proposals and as a consequence of this there is potential for any one of our island communities to be effectively banned from utilising the sea for economic or leisure purposes. This is no joke- even the act of catching a solitary mackerel from a rowing boat, or anchoring your boat in an HMPA WILL be considered a CRIMINAL activity. Any potential development in environmentally friendly renewable schemes, or the most passive forms of fishing, will be completely banned.
This HPMA framework that is being proposed by Marine Scotland is far beyond anything proposed by the rest of the uk&Ireland. It is driven by an unrealistic and highly damaging opinion by a minority of folk that hold the fishing industry in utter contempt, and in their motivation to criminalise one industry that has existed for millennia, they will isolate and damage our coastal communities considerably.
I draw comparison to the 19th century landlords who decimated the Highlands and Islands, forcing their tenants off the land to replace them with sheep. Except now, and I say this with a heavy heart, the landlord is the Scottish government and the sheep is replaced by the new religion of fundamentalist environmentalism.
It doesn’t need to be like this, we can have a healthy and well managed marine environment that also continues to be an important asset and resource to coastal communities, without padlocking the gates shut on us cottars. This is not a sensible and well researched proposal, it’s a random throw of the dice to see what happens, and it’s on us.Donald MacLennan – Harris
From fisherman Kenny Turnbull:
Guilt and shame is all you’re allowed to feel as a fisherman now, I genuinely don’t know what my place is in this changing world. For 27 years it’s been my family’s sole income, it has allowed me to stay on my home island and get on the property ladder against all the odds. My boat has helped feed and clothe 8 local kids over the years. Even through the worst years my crews have not earned less that £30,000.
More than all of that it is a calling that not many people can understand, a freedom to work and exist in the environment that surrounds us, nobody to answer to except your own wits and decisions. The feeling when it all works out is irreplaceable.
I had always thought that the lack of management and our own greed would be the undoing of us, but no the stocks have held up remarkably well from the bad days when 10m boats thought nothing of working 2,000 creels. Now things have settled back into a calmer, more sensible pace, a few management tweaks would see the job flourish again.
Outside of our target species I can honestly say my impact on biodiversity has been absolutely minimal, there is no by-catch in creels well none that can’t be returned alive anyway, and before anyone says it I have been fortunate enough to have never entangled a whale.
If these HPMAs go ahead in their current form it will be over for us, I fully expect given the designation parameters- layering with existing protected areas, this part of the coast will be inundated with designations. Treshnish islands (sac),coll and tiree (spa), small isles (mpa) the list is endless. My business is only successful with the ability to rotate grounds and species throughout the seasons, any interruption to that and displaced effort will make it unviable and damaging for areas outwith closures.
I will turn 44 next month, my kids are 15 and 14. The thought of starting over at this point in my life is terrifying, I have put my heart and soul into the fishing and never thought I’d find myself in this position.Kenny Turnbull – Mull
Scottish band Skipinnish’s song labels HPMA proposals as modern day Clearances
A protest song aiming to scupper Scottish Government plans to ban inshore fishing and all marine activities and devastate communities will be released this Friday (14/04) by one of Scotland’s biggest trad bands Skipinnish.
They have teamed up with 64-year-old inshore fisherman, Donald Francis (DF) MacNeil, who has made his recording debut to help save coastal communities with the song also being performed live for the first time in Aberdeen next month.
As the government’s public consultation on the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) enters its final stage, the band’s co-founder and fisherman Angus MacPhail has penned ‘The Clearances Again’ to stand against the plans and give voice to the thousands of people and numerous groups across Scotland that have spoken out strongly against the government’s proposals. The consultation closes on 17th April.
The Clearances Again is available to listen and download on all major streaming platforms from Friday 14th April. Skipinnish and DF MacNeil will perform The Clearances Again live for the first time at the band’s Aberdeen Music Hall concert on 12th May 2023, coinciding the annual major fishing exhibition in the city.
You can use the link here to buy and save the song.
- Western Isles Council Response to the HPMA Consultation
- Shetland Fishing Association Response
- Community Inshore Fisheries Alliance Response
- Scottish Islands Federation Response
- Response from Tiree Community Council and Tiree Community Development Trust
- Read the post from Donald MacLennan, a fisherman in Harris
- Read the post from Kenny Turnbull, a fisherman in Mull
Rhoda Meek (Chair of Tiree Community Development Trust) and Neil MacPhail, (Fisherman – Tiree) are both available for comment. Angus MacPhail of Skipinnish is also available through either Rhoda or Neil.
Rhoda Meek: 07771394030
Neil MacPhail: 07747791400
The image above features the crew and families who make their living from just one of the boats in Tiree, belonging to Neil MacPhail. “One boat worth of economic impact.”
Further images and video are available at the following link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/kQ3nRGafFaKGxY3e7. Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for high res copies and HD raw footage. No credits required.