C.O.A.S.T. struggles with the fishing industry’s view of the management for Scottish MPAs

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (C.O.A.S.T.) reports in its November 2015 newsletter: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designed to protect marine species and habitats (many of which are also fish nursery grounds), while at the same time allowing nearly all of the marine activities which already occur in these areas to continue.

They are not No Take Zones. The Arran MPA will still allow bottom trawling in 36% of the area and in 51% of the Upper Loch Fyne MPA for instance.

MPAs will encourage well-managed creeling and trawling, scallop diving, wildlife tourism and eventually, if managed effectively, a return of sea angling — all activities which used to support a far greater diversity and number of jobs around the Clyde than exist now.

Howard Wood, COAST Chair and a Clyde diver with 40 years experience, puts it this way: “The Clyde belongs to us all and must be managed in the public interest, as Marine Scotland is attempting to do. The South Arran MPA trawling restrictions on priority habitats such as seagrass meadows, burrowed mud and maerlMaerl Maerl is a collective term for several species of red seaweed, with hard, chalky skeletons. It is rock hard and, unlike other seaweeds, it grows as unattached rounded nodules or short, branched shapes on the seabed. Like all seaweeds, maerl needs sunlight to grow, and it only occurs to a depth of about 20m. beds equal less than 5% of Clyde waters.

“Big compromises have been made by the Government and communities like COAST, yet incredibly the mobile fishing lobby continues to make alarmist and unsubstantiated claims that these modest MPAs will ‘decimate’ communities.

“Ironically, it was bottom trawling which our predecessors (mainly fishermen) fought hard to get banned in the 1890s — to preserve the viability of fishing communities! They were wise. Since bans on bottom trawling in the Clyde were lifted in the 1960s and 80s our white fish stocks have declined to the point of being commercially unviable and sea anglers now go to Norway instead of the Clyde.

“Poor leadership and a lack of management has cost the Clyde hundreds of jobs and deprived Scotland of an affordable food source. MPAs can play an important part in redressing this situation and Marine Scotland needs our continued support as they finalise management for the entire MPA network”.

Nicola Sturgeon, whose Government must be congratulated on progressing a well-balanced MPA network for Scotland, said at the World Forum on Natural Capital held last month: “Economic growth cannot be sustained if it comes at a continuing and unsustainable cost to our natural resources… We should not reduce natural capital for our own temporary benefit, at the expense of future generations”.

How disappointing then that the well-healed mobile prawn lobby is doing everything in its power to undermine the Scottish Government’s proposals for effective MPA management and is prepared to mislead coastal communities with scaremongering to achieve its ends. Please contact your MSP to let them know Scotland’s 30 designated MPAs need immediate and effective management.

Source: C.O.A.S.T November 2015 Newsletter. For full details, see www.arrancoast.com/marine-news/newsletters

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