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]
WDC has handed over a huge 36,736 signatures from members of the public to Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, asking the Scottish Government to include whales and dolphins in Scotland’s new marine protected area network.
The handover of the signatures at the Scottish parliament by WDC’s head of policy in Scotland, Sarah Dolman, leading international minke whale expert, Dr Mike Tetley, and Ruaraigh the inflatable Risso’s dolphin was made just a day before Mr Lochhead made a public announcement regarding the Government’s plans for its marine protected area (MPA) network.
In February, WDC launched its campaign to ensure whales and dolphins are included in the list of species to be protected when the Scottish Government makes its decision on which areas of Scottish seas will be protected. In just a few months, WDC has received nearly 37,000 responses from concerned members of the public (including over 100 Scottish and international marine scientists) demonstrating the extreme level of feeling on the matter.
“We have been overwhelmed by the level of support received from the Scottish and international public on this matter and the sheer numbers speak for themselves. We are very pleased that Mr Lochhead agreed to meet with us to receive the signatures and so acknowledge the passionate public feeling on this matter”, said Sarah Dolman.
“Scotland’s seas are truly outstanding, and the Scottish MPA network is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect and showcase our amazing whales and dolphins along with other nationally important species and habitats.
“We know that the Scottish Government has the scientific data needed to include whales and dolphins in the MPA network – we helped supply it! They now have to choose whether to provide whales and dolphins with protected areas or to continue to neglect some of Scotland’s most iconic and precious marine species.”
The Scottish Government’s report to the Scottish Parliament contains no commitments to set up MPAs for the priority Scottish species identified, including minke whales, Risso’s dolphins, white beaked dolphins and basking sharks.
Plans announced today (14th December 2012) for 33 nature conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been welcomed by a coalition of Scotland’s environmental groups as an important step towards the much-needed recovery of Scotland’s seas.
Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce contends that a network of Marine Protected Areas cannot afford to simply protect what’s left in Scotland’s seas, otherwise the marine environment will continue to decline. The eight organisations who collectively represent 460,000 memberships, believe that a network of MPAs must actively help recover the seabed and the marine life it supports, implementing the ambition of national legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament over two years ago. … [Continue Reading]
This tail belongs to a Humpback whale. Not a lot of people know it, but these majestic mammals visit Scottish waters every year, as well as over 25 other species of whale and dolphin – from minke whales to harbour porpoises.
And just as the whales and dolphins visit our seas, so do people – who visit our shores and charter boats to watch them.
This wildlife tourism generates substantial value to local economies. Dolphin watching in the Moray Firth, for example, was recently found to be worth more than £4 million each year and generating more than 200 equivalent full-time jobs.
Unfortunately, it’s not a completely pretty picture. Not only are some species of whales and dolphins still recovering from decades of international overfishing, but they continue to struggle in a pressured marine environment too. Strandings resulting from the noise pollution of seismic surveys and unintentional entanglements in fishing nets are just some of the difficulties that whale and dolphin populations face.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) represent a vital method for managing our busy seas and helping to protect our marine wildlife. For those areas that are of vital importance to whale and dolphin populations, MPAs could help to mitigate the impacts of damaging activities. (Read WDC’s ‘All about MPAs for more information). Yet current plans for MPAs by the Scottish Government have not included whales and dolphins (or cetaceans as they are known scientifically) in the MPA network – due to be consulted on in summer 2013.
Whale & Dolphin Conservation, a member of the Save Scottish Seas campaign, is ‘up in arms’ about this. Check out their video and sign the petition. (This petition has since closed: check out how many people signed it….)