September 23, 2008

Community Marine Reserve on Isle of Arran is Given Green Light


ENVIRONMENT Secretary Richard Lochhead yesterday announced the go- ahead for the first community marine reserve, which will be at Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran.

The reserve introduces a ban on fishing in the waters amid hopes that scallop beds in the area will be more productive as a result, benefiting local fishermen.

Mr Lochhead said: "Our seas are special and we need to protect this precious resource while ensuring it continues to support the industries upon which coastal communities depend.

"This unique project shows what can be achieved when different interests put their heads together and find common, mutually beneficial ground."

The project has been driven by conservationists and fishermen, and follows a campaign by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (Coast), that represents 1600 islanders who wanted fishing banned to regenerate the seabed.

Mr Lochhead added: "It demonstrates what can happen when people work together on common goals and we empower communities to find local solutions to local issues. We will be watching the project closely, particularly as it is the first of its kind, to see what lessons can be learned for the future."

The reserve will be a "notake zone" and, in particular, will provide protection for maerl beds - a coralline alga important in its own right and for wider biodiversity, including scallop and other fish stocks.

Howard Wood, chairman of Coast, described the move as a "new beginning." He said: "After many years we at last have our marine reserve. We are now looking forward to the benefits it will bring " The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) - dedicated to protecting seas, shores and wildlife - also welcomed the news, and paid tribute to the work of Coast.

Calum Duncan, MCS Scottish conservation manager said: "We welcome the cabinet secretary's decision, that vindicates all the hard advocacy work by Coast over the years."

Mr Duncan added: "To help protect, restore and enhance Scotland's seas, a Scottish Marine Bill must deliver a comprehensive network of nationally important marine protected areas throughout Scottish seas. There is still time to respond to the Scottish Government's consultation to show support for more marine protected areas."

Scottish Natural Heritage will monitor sea life in Lamlash Bay, along with the Fisheries Research Services.

Proposals for a marine reserve in Lamlash Bay were announced in January. A subsequent three-month public consultation ended in June.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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