Allan Whyte, RSPB Scotland Marine Policy Officer, gives us an update on MPAs in Scotland.
A Quick Update about Marine Protection in Scotland
I’m really glad to say we have some positive news on Scotland’s marine environment. Some of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that were designated last year have just had their management measures published, and they’re looking good.
Puffins, Derren Fox
Management is what makes MPAs more than just lines on maps. The measures put restrictions on what can happen in an MPA and stops activities that damage the wildlife the MPA has been set up to protect.
So, it was great when Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, announced that the first batch of MPA management measures would be strong, would ban or severely restrict damaging fishing activity and would protect some of Scotland’s best wildlife.
This is fantastic news for all the RSPB supporters who have campaigned over the years with RSPB Scotland and Scottish Environment LINK, through our ‘Don’t Take the P (out of MPAs)’ campaign.
Marine Scotland and the Government have done a great job to make sure that these sites are well managed. Let’s hope the next group of MPAs to have management measures assigned are equally good, especially as these will include MPAs for black guillemots.
Black guillemot, Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
The new management measures mean that scallop dredging, the fishing practice that can tear up the sea floor, will be banned or heavily restricted from areas where there is sensitive marine life.
An important measure for seabirds is the ban on set-net fishing throughout all of the MPAs. Seabirds that dive into the water in search of food can get trapped in nets and drown, so it’s great to hear action has been taken.
All of this is good news for wildlife and coastal communities. Protected areas can be a big boost for tourism and a healthy marine environment is good for recreational marine users and can help recover fish-stocks.
There will be some out there that will argue that this news is bad for fishermen, particularly scallop fishermen. However, these new measures will only displace 1.6% of the scallop fishing effort in Scottish waters. The measures don’t stop anyone from fishing, they simply keep the most damaging fishing activities away from the most sensitive sites. This is a sensible approach, required to protect and recover Scotland’s seas.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the impacts these new management measures have and working hard over the summer to make sure that we secure the 14 Special Protection Areas for seabirds the Scottish Government announced in summer 2014.
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Very well done RSPB and the Scottish Government and everyone else that have help in reaching these excellent decisions. At ong last we are giving marine nature a chance, at least north of the boarder. (Still a sorry tail to the south.)