Smooth sailing? User perspectives on marine recreation around the Isle of Arran, Walsh, B.

The study of recreational activity in coastal and marine social-ecological systems (SESs) is sparse compared to terrestrial sites. This study examines the nature and distribution of marine-based recreation around the Isle of Arran, Scotland, aiming to provide a baseline assessment of user preferences and perspectives on current and future activity. A survey of 110 users, and interviews with ten stakeholders involved in facilitating recreational activities provided in-depth insight into relationships with other users, the environment, and governance systems within Arran’s marine SES. Through a mixed-method approach, involving statistical and thematic analysis, use trends were quantified while retaining the nuances of stakeholder perceptions. Results highlighted that the most popular primary activities were swimming (37.3%, n=41) and paddle sports (32.7%, n=36). Highest cumulative use levels occurred in Whiting Bay, Lamlash and Brodick on Arran’s east coast. Participants anticipated growth in marine recreation and valued wildlife abundance, environmental quality, and community among marine users. Concerns and emerging conflicts related to motorised watercraft, education, safety, crowding around popular entry points, and lack of local inclusion in the largely top-down management of Arran’s marine environment. Findings demonstrate the utility of a SES approach in understanding participant behaviours, perspectives, and conflicts as embedded in the ecological, social, and governance systems within which they operate, offering grounding upon which future research, management, and decision-making can take place.

2023. Walsh, Smooth sailing? User perspectives on marine recreation around the Isle of Arran