RV COAST Explorer officially launched!

19th May 2023

Introduction to the launch 

The community of Arran are set to celebrate the launch of a brand-new research vessel. RV COAST Explorer will be officially launched this weekend by Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition Màiri McAllan with attendees including cross-party MSPs, NatureScot, Marine Scotland, senior academics and local councillors, followed by a community party the following day for Arran residents. 

Background to COAST 

The boat, which was custom-designed and built in Great Yarmouth by Phantom Marine, will make history as she prepares to embark on her first season conducting marine research around the waters of Arran, including the Lamlash Bay No Take Zone and wider South Arran Marine Protected Area. These areas, which are home to unique marine life and habitats, were designated in 2008 and 2014 respectively after successful community campaigns by islanders. 

The original campaign was instigated by local Arran residents who had witnessed first-hand the damage that destructive fishing practices such as bottom-trawling and scallop dredging were having on the seabed. This came during a period of steady decline in fish stocks in the Clyde and the end of recreational angling events such as the Lamlash Fishing Festival.  

Community support for marine spatial management 

Since then, COAST has conducted innovative research in collaboration with leading universities including York, Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh and Napier. Results demonstrate significant increases in marine life abundance and diversity, including commercially important species.  

These changes have not gone unnoticed by the local community. In 2020, a study found that 97% of local residents that knew about the No Take Zone recognised its positive benefits. This level of ongoing community support for marine protection chimes with a recent Survation poll that found that concern for ocean health was highest amongst coastal communities across Scotland, and challenges recent claims that coastal communities are not supportive of spatial marine protection measures. 

COAST Staff, board members and partners – Credit: Paul Kay
The Arran Pipe Band playing at the Community Launch Party, 20th May 2023 – Credit: Paul Kay
RV COAST Explorer embarks on it’s first trip for the public, 20th May 2023

What will RV COAST Explorer be utilised for 

The vessel is equipped with many specialist features that will be used to support COAST’s ongoing restoration work through their research and education programmes. The 9m catamaran is fitted with a creel winch, for creel launching and recovery and is capable of launching Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and drop-down cameras. She can also be equipped with her Hydraulic ‘A’ Frame to tow sonars, plankton nets and baited remote underwater video (BRUV) devices. Modular deck arrangements can be configured to suit the charter with options for seating for up to 10 persons on deck and an external covered Wet Lab Area with sink. 

These bespoke features will allow COAST to expand their existing research and monitoring programmes, develop their educational offerings in partnership with the Arran Outdoor Education Centre and other schools, and offer public citizen science tours that allow people to get out on the water and get involved with COAST’s pioneering work. A recent online poll of island residents and visitors found that 83.3% people agree the boat will be an asset to the Arran community.  

Context of biodiversity and climate crises 

The launch events to welcome this fantastic new vessel demonstrate the ongoing community support for marine research, protection and restoration. In the context of the dual biodiversity and climate crises, the boat will allow COAST to engage and inspire current and future generations to love and protect their natural underwater world and champion meaningful action to promote its recovery. 

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition Màiri McAllan, said: “Research into our marine environment provides the evidence to help us all to make the best decisions for our economy, environment and communities. The launch of RV COAST Explorer – supported by the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund – shows the active part that coastal communities can play to support Scotland’s Blue Economy.” 

Prof Sir Ian Boyd, Professor of Biology at the University of St Andrews and former Chief Scientific Advisor for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “People and communities are at the centre of the changes needed to address the significant challenge of shifting to sustainable living. Even if we need to establish clear national objectives, delivery of those objectives will only happen as a result of the collective action of everybody working in local communities. The Lamlash Bay restoration project is providing guidance and inspiration for others because it illustrates how community action can make a difference.” 

Jim Henderson, Secretary of Arran Community Council, said: “Congratulations to COAST and with the support of funders, on the culmination of a vision, the launch of the RV COAST Explorer, which will enhance further research and educational explorations. We look forward to welcoming the boat to Arran and reaping the benefits that this amazing facility will bring to the whole island community.” 

Cicely Gill, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Community of Arran Seabed Trust, said: RV COAST Explorer will enhance and increase our engagement with the local community and beyond. She will take visitors out of themselves and give them the chance to enter the realm of the Clyde, hitherto unexplored unless you are a diver or snorkeller. 

And for serious research purposes the boat will bring us the evidence we need to carry on the fight to make everyone, including essentially, the government, understand the necessity for an unpolluted thriving sea if we are to survive on this planet.”