Minutes Dec 2016
Minutes of Meeting of the Dunnet & Canisbay Community Council
In Seaview Hotel, John O’Groats
on Monday 12th December 2016 at 7.30 p.m.
Those Present: Eric Green, Chairman
Bill Mowat, Vice Chairman
Chris Hobson, Treasurer
Barbara Hiddleston, Secretary
Cllr. Matthew Reiss
13 Members of the public were in attendance
1. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH): Proposed Special Protected Areas (pSPA)
1.1 Eric Green welcomed our speaker, Emma Philip, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Coastal & Marine Eco System & Use, and Ian Sargent SNH Operations Officer, Caithness. who accompanied her.
1.2 As agreed at our last meeting held on 31st October 2016, SNH had been invited to give a presentation on the benefits and disadvantages of the proposed SPA to protect particular breeding seabirds around the Pentland Firth. This area is part of the Pentland Firth and Scapa Flow marine draft SPA as seen on the maps below. Those areas highlighted are existing special protection areas.
NB. Maps were taken off the Pentland Firth Proposed Special Protection Area (pSPA) NO. UK9020317 SPA Site Selection Document: Summary of the scientific case for site selection written by SNH & JNCC in which Emma Philip was involved. Source: www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A2013188.pdf
1.3.2 Map 1 shows the extent/area of the proposed Pentland Firth SPA. Map 2 shows the already protected zones as close to Stroma and the Duncansby Head cliff-wall.
1.4.1 Emma began by explaining that this had originally to be a combined ‘Pentland Firth and Scapa Flow’ draft SPA but that these had been separated out as the bird-species were different. In the Pentland Firth it was migrant birds of the three named species that were involved, with them being in the area for the nesting/breeding season. Whereas in Scapa Flow, there was more of an emphasis on resident birds, such as species of ducks, so it was considered best to separate them out.
1.4.2 Emma continued by saying this draft was a shared venture between SNH and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). Those bodies were charged with providing best scientific advice to Marine Scotland and indeed the Scottish Government, which has certain statutory responsibilities for conservation under European Union regulations.
1.4.3 She was here to talk about the Pentland Firth. It is part of a wider programme throughout Scotland with its main aim to protect the feeding grounds of resident and migratory breeding seabirds, particular to each area, from future exploitation/development which could cause decline in their breeding. This can only be done by change in Government Policy which is based on the scientific evidence gathered and found in reports such as this. It is open for public consultation the closing date for this proposed special protection area of the Pentland Firth (and Scapa Flow) is the 17th January 2017.
1.4.4 The birds in question for the Pentland Firth are the Arctic Skua which in Britain only breed in northern Scotland, Common Guillemots, and Arctic Terns. These birds nest during the summer on nearby cliffs, moorlands and islands such as Swona & Muckle Skerry with the feeding grounds for their young and themselves on the rich sea waters around them.
1.5.1 As Emma continued her talk, it became clear that those present whose livelihood depends on the Pentland Firth, such as the creel fishermen/woman, wanted to know what effect this proposed SPA would have on their source of income. They maintained the biggest threat to the seabirds was a natural predator, the Great Skua, and that the number of sand eels, one main source of food, was on the rise and the birds were in good shape. Their knowledge was based on their own practical experience and what they observe each time they go out fishing. Keeping her cool throughout the lengthy heated discussion that followed, Emma continued to explain that the reports were based on scientific evidence. This did not impress those present.
1.5.2 It was strongly emphasised by one member of the audience said he did not believe that the ‘so- called Special Protection Area’ would do anything at all to actually protect the three species of sea- birds cited. Rather, it would have negative consequences for the Human population without having any advantages for the birds - the proposed SPA brings restrictions without any benefits.
1.5.3 If the proposed SPA came into being, these three species would be no better looked after than they are now and deemed that it could not be accepted because of the strength of feeling against it.
1.6.1 Going onto the issue of management as requested by those in attendance, Emma talked about the activities that were seen as potentially a threat to the feeding grounds and those that were not.
Fishing Mobile Gear- mechanical & hydraulic
Fishing- Static Gear
Ports & Harbours
New Development – Renewables – Marine Tidal
Not Potential Threats
Anchorages & Moorings
Fishing – Static Gear – Creels
Infrastructure – cables, pipelines, outfalls
Gas & oil pipelines
Anglers, boating, wildlife tours
Surfing & kayaking
1.6.2 One heading that really caused concern was in Potential Threats: Fishing – Static Gear because in the list of Not Potential Threats was also Fishing – Static Gear, but with Creels as a sub heading. Emma was asked for a guarantee that Creels would not be transferred to the Potential Threat list, which in their judgement she could not give. They reiterated that this was their main source of income in which they were investing both economically and in effort.
1.6.3 The other heading that also caused concern was the New Development – Renewables – Marine Tidal. The MeyGen tidal array in the Inner Sound between Stroma and the Mainland is in the early stages of development – a ‘demonstration array’ – and two marine turbines have been installed during the past month, with two more to follow imminently; the support structures for all four are in place.
1.6.4 Members of the audience said that they looked upon Marine Renewables:Tidal as providing a much-needed source of economic growth for this part of North Caithness. They anticipated that other Crown Estate sub-SPA tidal electricity projects would be developed in the future and one noted that his joinery company had won contracts in building the Ness of Quoys shore station for MeyGen’s developers.
1.6.5 They were very concerned indeed that, by having this listed in the pSPA document as a ‘potential threat’ that this would send out the completely wrong signal to tidal electricity developers and they wondered if the proposed SPA wold prevent or handicap further such developments and stop much-need future economic growth in this area.
1.7 As this lively debate had lasted for an hour and a half, Eric Green brought the discussion to a close and thanked Emma for her presentation. Emma reminded those present that the Consultation date ended at midnight of the 17th January 2017. To make a response online and for more information on the proposals, this information was available on the website www.snh.gov.uk/MarineBirdSPAs. She also agreed to send paper copies of the response form to the Secretary, who will pass them onto the Hotel where they would be readily available. Action Emma
1.8 Eric Green said that as it was also a Government issue, those with concerns should approach our MP Paul Monaghan and MSP Gail Ross as well as responding through the forms. It was noted the Orkney Islands Council had already officially objected to this plan on their proposed SPS and mirrored our viewpoint. Action Eric
1.9 He added that on behalf of the Community, the Dunnet & Canisbay. Community County, would not support this proposed Special Protected Area as it would prove economically disastrous to the area both in terms of economic growth and for the livelihood of the fishermen, and would contact our Members of Parliament. This was supported by the Committee.
1.10 Date of Next Meeting. Due to lack of time it was agreed all business would be carried onto the next meeting to be held in Seaview Hotel, John O’Groats on Monday 23rd January 2017 at 7.30 p.m.