Between 2010 and 2016, the Orkney Islands Council, Highland Council and Marine Scotland have collaborated to develop a pilot Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters in Scotland. This paper explores the challenges of marine spatial planning processes by looking at the possibilities for fisheries communities to mobilize their social capital – in the form of bonding, bridging or linking – in order to re-position and to empower themselves in these processes. This paper aims to uncover the resilience of local communities that deploy social capital in order to influence MSP processes and safeguard their own interests. For this article ten weeks of qualitative fieldwork in the form of in-depth interviews and participant observation with stakeholders of the pilot marine spatial plan were conducted on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The strong bonding social capital among fishermen in Orkney has resulted in a resilient community identity which allows for collaboration and self-organization, but also creates a defensive mentality which does not favor linking. Furthermore, a lack of trust in governmental authorities inhibits the mobilization of linking social capital among fishermen, obstructing the ability to access power through cross-scale connections. In response the fisheries community uses bridging social capital outside governance arenas to access networks and mobilize resources to strengthen its socio-economic and political position in support of future linking social capital. Researching this complex interrelation and functioning of social capital uncovers some of the social dimensions and socio-institutional constraints for fisheries engagement with and power in marine spatial planning.