Will our politicians surrender Scottish seas to development at any cost?
The Scottish people should be deeply concerned when one of their Cabinet Secretaries promises industrial growth in our seas at any cost. Fergus Ewing addressed salmon producers at the Seafood Expo in Brussels: ‘I’m determined to give what leadership I can to make sure that no matter what challenges are thrown at it, you double growth,’ ‘Let’s do it…let’s go Scotland!’
Ewing keeps avoiding his responsibility to manage the risks to our marine environment. Instead he encourages the growth of some of the most destructive or risky industries that benefit some but jeopardise the future of coastal communities, sustainable fishing and biodiverse seas. His portfolio of blunders keeps growing; as well as promising to double salmon production in Scotland, he has supported “scientific trials” for electrofishing of razor clams mostly accross the West coast, and many within the network of Marine Protected Areas. This fishery has been illegal in the EU since 1998 as it can cause irreversible damage to marine ecosystems. He has also ignored the black hole of the unregulated wrasse fishery, driven by salmon producers to treat sea lice in their cages. This goes to show how little Marine Scotland has learnt from the lessons of the past 50 years of ineffectual marine management, the decline of the Firth of Clyde ecosystem being one of the main examples of this.
All eyes are now on the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s inquiry into the development of salmon farming in our seas. Will the REC Committee MSPs pay heed to the Parliament’s own Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee letter and report that concluded: “The status quo [of salmon farming] is not an option”? Will they listen to the hundreds and thousands of people represented by 27 fishery, environmental and community groups (see list of signatories and press release here) who have asked for an immediate moratorium on salmon farm development?
Let the REC Committee MSPs know what you think about this issue.
The public is clearly concerned. Over 30,000 people have signed a petition asking the government to test wastewater from salmon cages in Scotland for pathogens and diseases. They expect our parliament and government to work hard to leave the Scottish people a legacy of a healthy and diverse marine ecosystem, that will support a sustainable economy. COAST will continue to hold any government to account.
Introducing Matthew and Debora
Matthew is a marine biology graduate and blogger from Plymouth University: “I’m fascinated with all sea life, for its diversity and influence in our lives. I look forward to getting involved in their conservation with COAST”.
Debora, with an MSc in Marine Resource Protection from Heriot-Watt has worked in marine conservation in Greece and Italy and is “obsessed with the sea, as I find every single marine creature fascinating”. They have both joined the team as full-time volunteers for the season.
Changes ahead for outreach season!
COAST Volunteers got crafty in March at Arran Community Land Initiative and Eco-Savvy’s joint Green Show events. Our Easter Eggtopus Trail event saw our first big outreach event at our new site with over 60 children taking part. Our Arran Outdoor Education Centre sessions now include exploring rock pools as the weather improves! Look out for COAST’s new events programme, busier and more exciting than ever, with many activities running from the new Octopus Centre.
Scotland’s seafood traceability problem “The recent incident of illegal dredging in a Scottish MPA has exposed a serious problem for producers and consumers of Scottish seafood, highlighting that we don’t know, with any geographical accuracy, where much our seafood comes from”. Read the full article from Open Seas.
Plaice eats eel eats plastic!
A new study by Dr Natalie Welden and COAST Ambassador Dr Leigh Howarth has confirmed plastics were transferred within the food chain after sampling crustaceans and fish from the Celtic Sea. These results raise concerns over the nutritional value of prey to predators.
Here on Arran, to help minimise marine plastics, the newly established Think About Plastic – Arran group are seeking Plastic Free Coastlines accreditation for the island.
Community watch on the No Take Zone
On the 5th of March, various members of our community reported to COAST that a vessel had laid about 40 creel pots in Lamlash Bay No Take Zone overnight. For vessels under 12 metres there is no obligation to carry a VMS or AIS monitoring system. this means that unless spotted by someone, illegal fishing could go unreported, especially at night time. The people on Arran were astonished and outraged that this has happened after nearly 10 years of protection. We are very grateful to all who provided us with reports and photos which were sent to Marine Scotland Compliance, now investigating the case.
Open call for sea-loving artists
We are thrilled to be organising, in collaboration with Arran Open Studios, the first exhibition at the Octopus Centre: “Something of the Sea”. Professional and amateur artists with a connection to Arran are donating small format artworks to be shown and sold. If you would like to take part, read details and deadlines here.
Seasearch on Arran
Divers and snorkellers have learned to identify and survey our local marine species. Guided by Owen Paisley, with assistance from Rob Spray and Dawn Watson, all Seasearch divers and trainers, we recorded marine life in the No Take Zone and found a large area of seagrass and a handsome long-spined sea scorpion!
Wake up call from the deep seas
We are thrilled that Claire Nouvian has been awarded the 2018 Goldman Prize for Europe. Founder of the Bloom Association, she has led a campaign against deep-sea bottom trawling, forcing French supermarket and fleet owner Intermarche to change its practices. Claire was also behind the current EU ban on deep-sea bottom trawling which applies to Scotland’s offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Unfortunately these MPAs could still allow for deep sea trawling in vulnerable marine ecosystems at depths shallower than 800m. Callum Roberts said on Radio 4 today that we have a “network of paper parks that is worse than useless” as most of our MPAs have either weak or not yet legislated management measures which cannot be fully enforced by the authorities due to the lack of resources.
Video of the month: orchestra or ecosystem
In March, Music Planet and St Andrews University Orchestra held a fundraising event, Symphonic Nature, in Lochranza for COAST. Listen to a snippet of the magical evening here.
Species of the month: Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
These distinctive shoreline birds are easily identified by their long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs, as well as their black and white stocky bodies. They are vulnerable species, as their primary food source of cockles is in danger of over-exploitation. Many seabirds are currently nesting on our beaches around the coast – keep an eye on where you tread and find out more about SNH’s best practice of marine wildlife watching here.