Coastal Communities

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2022.

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Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

I absolutely join the member in celebrating the community; it is great to hear about its work.

The Community Association of Lochs and Sounds native oyster project in Lochaline generated strong interest from the community, so CAOLAS worked with the community council to put the marine environment at the heart of Morvern’s community action plan.

The Coastal Communities Network consists of 19 wonderful groups, such as those that I have mentioned, that are all striving to improve the health of their coastal environments and open up possibilities for more community-controlled sustainable fishing. I am committed to championing them. Their projects benefit communities by strengthening relationships, providing skills and jobs and protecting homes and infrastructure. In addition, they benefit nature and help to address climate change by protecting blue carbon that is locked up in our coastal environments. They also benefit the economy—a US study found that each dollar that was invested in a coastal restoration project resulted in a return of more than $15.

I am proud that Greens are helping to deliver the £55 million nature restoration fund, yet more is needed to build those projects. The small team at Seawilding spends most of its time on fundraising for small pots of money that do not cover the lifetime of its projects. Community groups, community councils and local councillors are sometimes excluded from marine planning groups such as the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership, which can lead to tensions and a disconnect between communities and planners.

Coastal community groups want swifter action from Marine Scotland in designing new marine protected areas where the evidence calls for it, and stronger protection for fisheries management measures for existing MPAs. I look forward to the Government consulting on capping fishing activities in inshore waters. Fishers should be involved in the evidence-gathering process by using remote electronic monitoring on vessels, and we must deliver a just transition by supporting them to move from dredging or trawling to forms of lower-impact fishing. We could start by establishing a knowledge-sharing programme to enable Scottish fishers to learn from their Norwegian counterparts, who have successfully adapted to a new framework for managing coastal waters on an ecosystem basis. That has resulted in vibrant recovered fisheries that provide more jobs than dredging could.

The New Economics Foundation found that allowing United Kingdom fish stocks to return to healthy levels would create an additional £268 million in gross economic benefit and almost 5,000 new jobs. Coastal communities need good jobs but it does not have to be a trade-off: communities, fishers and nature are interdependent.

Local communities are already working in support of nature by restoring and regenerating our coasts and seas, but they need support, so let us invest in, enable and revitalise our coastal communities. If we do so, the positive effects will ripple out.