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]
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]
Members of this campaign are deeply concerned that potential new management measures for Marine Protected Areas – announced this week – risk failing to protect and recover the very sea life which MPAs have been set up to protect. We are now launching a joint campaign urging the people of Scotland to tell the Scottish Government: ‘Don’t take the P out of MPAs.’
The proposals issued by the Scottish Government outline a range of scenarios for 20 inshore MPAs, some of which would allow fishing methods such as scallop-dredging and bottom-trawling to continue to damage seabed habitats. This on-going damage to the seafloor has wider, knock-on impacts for our other marine life such as fish, seabirds and marine mammals, which move around, feeding and breeding in these important areas of our sea. The plans are now the subject of a three month long public consultation, as Scottish Government staff tour coastal communities throughout November and December. Having assessed the consultation options, we are urging people to support stronger protection and support our ACTION: #DontTakeTheP
See below for more reaction from the campaign members: … [Continue Reading]
Today, the first ever Marine Conservation Order (MCO) was approved by the Scottish Parliament. The MCO – approved via a short-notice emergency procedure initiated by Marine Scotland, excludes all forms of fishing – and indeed any activity that could damage the seabed – in three areas near to the southern shores of the Isle of Arran. As many will know, North Lamlash Bay is the site of Scotland’s first and only No Take Zone and so this recent event in the Clyde once again marks a significant moment in the long and evolving story of Scotland’s seas.
In August, Glasgow hosted the International Marine Conservation Congress. This was a big deal. Over an intense week, the world’s most creative and motivated minds in marine science gathered together to discuss solutions to the urgent problems facing our shared ocean. It was also – in domestic terms – very timely. Here in Scotland, we have just put in place 30 new Marine Protected Areas; countries all across the globe are beginning to develop MPAs. The eyes of the world’s marine conservation and planning community were on Scotland’s contribution to the debate. So what did they think? The opinion-soup of social media is an imperfect tool for monitoring such things, but well… so are feedback forms, so here’s … [Continue Reading]
Over 30 events have been held across Scotland since August about government plans to develop a network of MPAs. Peter Cunningham, biologist at the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust – who attended an event in Poolewe – says that local engagement with the proposal is essential…
Around 30 local people attended our local Marine Protected Area (MPA) drop-in event in September. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) staff were on hand to explain the North West Sea Lochs and Summer Isles MPA proposal and offer more information about the underpinning science. It provided a very useful forum to air and discuss emerging views on the proposed MPA. The proposed MPA encompasses … [Continue Reading]
Could interlinked fish and crustacean populations affect the declining health of local seagrass beds? Peter Cunningham of the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust explores the possibility in light of fresh research from across the pond…
Recently I had a snorkel along the shore of Loch Ewe where we tried to re-establish some seagrass in an area where a few years ago a small area of seagrass had disappeared.
Last winter, on the other side of the peninsula by mouth of Loch Gairloch, we found lots of stranded rootlets and fragments of seagrass on the shore at Big Sand; so the idea was to try to see if we could get the cuttings to root along the shore of Loch Ewe. … [Continue Reading]
Sea trout, like many species in Scotland’s waters, are in decline. And not just a gradual decline; in some regions they are on a disturbing trajectory towards local extinction, having fallen by over 75% in 20 years . Government advice infers from the latest sea trout rod catch statistics that spawning levels of this fish are at historically low levels. This is bad news for obvious ecological reasons. It is also bad news for very interconnected economic ones.
Sea trout are part of the natural, social and economic fabric of Scotland. For millennia a part of our diet, Scottish sea trout and salmon now attract anglers from all over the world.
A study in 2004 revealed that recreational anglers for sea trout and salmon spent a total of £73m in Scotland annually. This is undoubtedly a substantial annual contribution to the coastal and rural areas of Scotland’s economy. A 1999 study suggested indirect and induced impacts of angling on the Western Isles economy amounted to £5.6m and accounted for 260 full time equivalent jobs – 2.7% of the working population.
These economic studies make clear that healthy stocks of sea trout and salmon are vital to the rural economy. And widespread declines in sea trout mean these financial benefits to local communities are under threat. The reasons for the declines vary throughout the country, but in the west where the issue is most pressing, they are mostly linked to the spread of disease. And again one thing is obvious; we need to act. Much work is already being done to conserve sea trout in river systems, but there is more we can do to protect sea trout in the marine environment.
What can we do about this?
Like salmon, sea trout move from freshwater into salt-water, but rather than migrating across the Atlantic like their salmonid cousins, sea trout spend the marine stage of their life cycle in inshore and estuarial waters. It is here that they are particularly vulnerable and where they are known to pick up lethal infections of sealice.
It is for this reason that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can help to protect sea trout. Sea trout are classed as a ‘Priority Marine Feature’ under new Scottish marine legislation and although they are not being used as one of the features to drive the selection of MPA sites, it is essential that once the sites have been identified, some must be managed specifically for the protection of sea trout and other migratory fish such as salmon. MPAs could also be managed to enhance the marine habitats and food sources which sea trout rely upon, for example by protecting eelgrass beds, maerl beds and sandeels.
Alongside other conservation measures, MPAs therefore could provide a vital boost to migratory fish in Scotland’s marine and freshwater environment. This of course is an end in itself – studies show that people are glad simply to know that fish live in our rivers. But the potential trickle-down effects in the form of secure – and possibly increased – revenue from recreational game fishing is just one demonstration of how the health of our economy is underpinned by environmental health.
Despite such a compelling case, these nature conservation Marine Protected Areas are not yet in place. At the end of 2012, the Scottish Government received advice from SNH and JNCC on 33 MPA proposals and four MPA search locations in Scottish waters. Members of the Save Scottish Seas campaign remain seriously concerned about gaps in the network and its adequacy for the protection of certain important marine species and habitats. The campaign is therefore committed to helping make the MPA network as well-managed and ecologically coherent as possible.
This summer there is a public consultation about the proposed network. Find out how you can show your support for a strong, well-managed and ecologically-coherent network of Marine Protected Areas by visiting the Save Scottish Seas ‘get involved’ page…
[Updated from original article on 23rd August, 2013]