Green groups hail major victory on marine protection

Gravel sea cucumber cropped

​Pressure from environmental charities and the public have led to greater protection for Scotland's seabeds.

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12th June 2015 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Ambitious proposals to protect fragile seabed areas from damaging fishing practices have been welcomed as a victory for campaigners.

Draft legislation unveiled by the Scottish Government will lead to the better protection of the country’s four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

MPAs are set aside areas where commercial and leisure pressures are taken off sea life, allowing it to recover.

This has benefits for adjoining areas and the entire marine eco-system as protected areas lead to re-seeding and provide safe havens for young animals – helping fish stocks to revive.

Scotland’s MPA are from Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura, the Small Isles, South Arran, and Wester Ross.

Thousands of people wrote to the Scottish Government urging them to avoid creating paper parks - and ministers are now clearly starting to listen.

The proposals would add further safeguards to these areas - for example, scallop dredging will be banned from the entire Wester Ross MPA, which covers Loch Broom, Loch Ewe and the Summer Isles.

Green groups pushed for further protection measures - launching the "Don't Take The P Out Of MPAs" campaign.

Calum Duncan, convenor of Scottish Environment Link’s marine taskforce, said it was environmental charities and pressure from the public which pushed the Scottish Government in the correct direction over MPAs.

He said: “Our ‘Don’t Take The P out of MPAs’ campaign struck a chord. Thousands of people wrote to the Scottish Government urging them to avoid creating paper parks - and ministers are now clearly starting to listen, by proposing that larger areas of the seabed be protected from damaging fishing activities.

“We will now be looking closely at the newly-drafted measures to make sure they fulfil the clear and widespread public expectation that MPAs should be managed to recover the ecological health of our seas.

“We are making a strong social, economic and environmental case for meaningful management that protects our precious seabed and boosts future opportunities for sustainable fishing.”

Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) living seas manager Alex Kinninmonth said: “The Trust is pleased to see that the Scottish Government has considered the clear evidence and listened to public opinion.

“Even within protected areas the true extent and condition of important seabed habitats is still coming to light.

“Closure to bottom-dredging is simple to comply with, will allow habitats to recover from historic pressures, and most importantly has public backing.”