Scotland’s offshore waters are far out, but we don’t want them to be out of mind. They are home to ancient, vulnerable deepwater coral reefs and sponges, ghostly fields of tall sea pen, unusual methane-seeps, aggregations of ocean quahog – among the oldest living things on the planet. They provide habitat for keystone species such as sandeels – small shoaling fish that are an essential food source for diving birds, such as puffins, seals, porpoises, and bigger fish, including many commercial species. … [Continue Reading]
There are a lot of heads swimming right now, as Brexit puts the proverbial shark amongst the mackerel. ‘Leaving the EU’ (whatever that actually ends up meaning in the evolving, devolving politics of the UK) does in theory have very significant implications for the management of our seas. Perhaps more than any other policy sphere or industry, managing our sea area demands deep cooperation across national borders. Ocean currents and energy sources flow across our territorial boundaries and so do a lot of other things: fish, pollutants, boats, whales and people. What happens in one part of the sea often affects everyone else – we are all connected. It’s a simple fact, with complicated political consequences.
Brexit presents a challenge. Over the last 40+ years, our politicians have engaged … [Continue Reading]
A new report has shown that rare species could re-colonise Scotland’s seabed if given a chance to recover. The study – using predictive modelling to understand the distribution of Fan Mussels – reveals the massive potential of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas to enrich the health and complexity of our seabed.
Fan Mussels (Atrina fragilis) is one of the largest and rarest bivalve molluscs in UK waters and is listed among the most threatened species in the North Atlantic. The authors explain that the “distribution of A. fragilis is known to be negatively affected by benthic fishing practices), as fishing gears can damage the emergent portions of the fragile shell and dislodge the animal. The first pass of benthic fishing gears has the greatest impact … [Continue Reading]
Our campaigners ask whether enough is being done to protect the refuge of one of the world’s most endangered fish…
Described sometimes as the Giant Panda of the sea, the Common skate is a critically endangered species – and one of its last strongholds is in our deep sea lochs on the West coast. However, the latest Scottish Government measures introduced to protect this majestic, but sadly all-too-rare creature, whilst a major step forward, are still at risk of being jeopardised by short-termist compromise.
Some areas – once identified as potentially crucial to the recovery of the common skate – will now remain open seasonally to bottom-towed fishing. These ‘derogations’ were called … [Continue Reading]
Placing proportionate limits on bottom-towed fishing could help boost long-term jobs in fragile rural communities, as well as protect the environment, contend a coalition of Scottish charities. The Scottish Government is due to announce measures for managing fishing in several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) later this month. Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Taskforce has written to the Scottish Parliament with the findings of an economic review which highlights the benefits that protection of seabed habitats could provide.
Drawing on the report, the environmental groups say that if the Scottish Government … [Continue Reading]
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have come under some heavy fire from some fishing representatives for potentially “devastating” socio-economic impacts, but we contend MPAs will help to recover our seas and boost the resilience of coastal communities in Scotland. In this blog, we explain why a lot of people around rural Scotland, including many progressive Scottish fishermen, agree: by looking after our marine environment, MPAs can be part of a rural and coastal revival.
It’s now not helpful pretending otherwise: MPAs have become a wee bit divisive. We’ve charted here, here, here and here the various twists and turns of developing a network of Scottish MPAs. But if you don’t have time to read, here’s a quick re-cap: these MPAs are ‘in the water’ (ie they were designated in 2014) but there is still no comprehensive fisheries management (except for emergency measures in South Arran and Wester Ross), which means that our fishing fleets continue to catch fish within these parts of our inshore waters just like before – using a variety of methods … [Continue Reading]
It’s the holy grail of marine conservation, or at least it is to many skippers, fisheries managers and governments. The win-win-win: whereby improving the ecological health of our seas leads to real in-the-pocket benefits for the fishing sector, with higher value landings (based on a combination of increased biological productivity and high-value catch) making a positive contribution to the national balance sheet. It’s no surprise that it is the focus for extensive scientific research across the world.
There is increasing evidence that MPAs offer significant long-term secondary economic benefits flowing from the environmental benefits of … [Continue Reading]
As part of series of case-studies, we are exploring how Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) interact with fisheries management and how emerging science from other areas around the world shows some encouraging signs of the fisheries benefits of MPAs.
Case Study 1: MPAs along the Norwegian Skagerrak coast 
This study was based on a group of MPAs establish in 2006 along the Norwegian Skagerrak coast, designed to protect shellfish and partially protect fish stocks. The researchers used Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) methods to try and determine what the effect of the MPAs would be. This means that they collected field data on the numbers and sizes of lobsters … [Continue Reading]
Scotland’s marine protected areas (MPAs) are in the balance. The Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead is in the process of signing-off crucial documents that will indicate the proposed future management for Scotland’s MPAs. We are concerned that certain types of fishing which can damage seafloor habitats will be allowed to continue in large areas of the new MPAs. That’s why we continue to call that our representatives: ‘DontTakeTheP’ out of MPAs.
The decision about how the Scottish Government intends to manage Scotland’s new nature conservation MPAs will perhaps be the most obvious signal yet of just how progressive our Government is in terms of its marine policy. There is a choice: maintain the status quo, which has seen the steady and unchecked decline of biodiversity in our seas, or manage for the future, by … [Continue Reading]
Artist Julia Barton has a good idea. She is convinced that art can make a difference to the health of our coastal environments. So she set up the Littoral Art Project in 2013 and is now crowdfunding for an innovative tool that could help change the way we think about the litter problem on our beaches. Read her story here (and please consider chipping in to help with the project. She needs £3,000 by 4th May…)
It first started after walking on a beach in Wester Ross in 2012. Artist Julia Barton, quite literally experienced ‘a fear of drowning’ in litter. “As I walked along the strandline I became sickened by the number of plastic objects: trays, buoys, bottles, ropes, toys, cups, cigarette lighters,” she explained. “Looking closer, I realised that the seaweed was heavily laced with thousands of small pieces of cord, rope, … [Continue Reading]