It is with pleasure that we can announce that we have secured funding for a versatile, wheel-chair accessible boat to deliver a range of restoration, research and education projects as part of our five year strategy.
The boat, which is being built by Phantom Marine in Great Yarmouth, will be a 9m catamaran (see sister vessel in featured image on left) with an array of custom-spec additions to enable research, citizen science, diving and education. The projected benefits to the local community, COAST and marine conservation are many and varied.
Howard Wood, COAST co-founder says: “Investigation and consultation into a potential research and education boat has been ongoing by COAST since 2013. These conversations, coupled with information gathered from an online survey last year, highlighted the urgent requirement for such a vessel to fulfil not just a vital need for COAST but for the wider community as well.”
For COAST, our own boat will facilitate the advancement of marine scientific research in collaboration with leading Universities both nationally and internationally, to monitor the recovery of the marine ecosystem around Arran and the Firth of Clyde. We also aim to expand our own scientific monitoring and local citizen science, as the vessel will provide a suitable platform for full utilisation of remotely operated vehicles and drop-down pole cameras. But the boat’s business plan goes further than scientific research and citizen science; education and outreach are vital to inspire people to protect what they cannot see, and COAST recognise that the boat very much has a role to play in connecting with schools, locals and tourists to achieve this. It is anticipated that the boat will add great value to COAST’s existing partnerships with local stakeholders, such as the Arran Outdoor Education Centre, local schools, and tourism and hospitality partners.
“The boats primary function is to support marine restoration activities, and promote a healthy marine environment; it will also provide job opportunities on the island,” says Howard. “Besides its primary use as a research boat, we are determined that it will enable both local school children and those attending the Arran Outdoor Education Centre the opportunity to get out on the water and be involved in their own citizen science projects.”
COAST’s Executive Director, Andrew Binnie explains that “this is an exciting new two hundred thousand pound investment for COAST and underpins Arran’s reputation as a front runner in community-based marine conservation. It was made possible through generous grants from NatureScot via the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, the Island Communities Fund and Fauna and Flora International Arcadia, to whom we also extend our gratitude. We very much look forward to taking possession of the boat in the Spring of next year.”
The support of the local community over the last 25 years has been paramount to the success of COAST. To date, COAST has co-ordinated the delivery of the UK’s only community-led No Take Zone, and the much larger 280 km2 Marine Protected Area, thus raising the profile of Arran as a destination for marine environmental education, knowledge exchange and eco-tourism. However, up until now the island has missed-out on realising the full potential of these conservation areas, due to a lack of multi-purpose coded commercial boats on the island.
Arran’s seas are healthy and vibrant and the local community stand to benefit greatly from COAST’s new endeavour. The project fits perfectly with North Ayrshire Council’s Wealth Building Strategy, in that it supports other local businesses and is essential to accommodate future scientific climate change and biodiversity research. Once again, COAST are promoting North Ayrshire and Arran as international leaders in community-led marine science, conservation, education and tourism.