South Arran MPA

The waters around the southern end of Arran are home to a diversity of habitats and species characteristic of the more exposed areas of the Clyde Sea. A patchwork of maerl beds, kelp and seaweeds on sediments, burrowed mud, coarse shell gravels with burrowing bivalves, and seagrass beds to name but a few. The MPA encompasses the waters from just north of Drumadoon Point on the west coast, to Corriegills Point on the east and includes the current No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay. [1]

History of this MPA

The South Arran MPA was designated in 2014, following a public consultation, and fisheries management measures are in place.

Read our response to the consultation on management measures here:

This site, if well-managed, has the potential to contribute significantly to the wider ecological improvement of the Clyde sea area and help to support progress towards Good Environmental Status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by 2020, the EU target to which Scotland is committed. The South Arran MPA is known to host to a complex variety of features, some of which are sensitive, declining or now absent (e.g. herring spawning grounds). The proposed management should allow the chance of halting this decline and allowing recovery which, for maerl habitats (with a conservation objective for recovery) is critical. Scientific research within Lamlash Bay No Take Zone is already contributing to our understanding of these habitats and species and their potential for ecological recovery in the absence of pressures, but in such a small area it is difficult to demonstrate the full potential for wider ecosystem improvements.

Whilst we welcome the greater simplicity behind the proposals for management within the South Arran MPA, we maintain that a prohibition on mobile demersal gear throughout the site would be the most appropriate form of management. As stated in our consultation response, we contend that all the habitats in this site which support burrowing infauna, such as burrowed mud and shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves, should also follow advice to remove/avoid pressure. However, we support the prohibition of scallop dredging in South Arran MPA and recgonise that this will offer opportunities for other fisheries at sustainable levels, such as the brown crab, which occupies similar habitats to scallops and is a known bycatch species of dredging (Veale et al, 2000; Jenkins et al, 2001).

We support the no-static gear zones on the maerl beds for the recovery of this feature. We
acknowledge creeling has a lower impact on the seabed, and support the continuation of this activity where appropriate. However, there is a shortage of scientific research on the impacts of creeling and the best management approaches for ensuring that creeling remains sustainable. We are wary about the reduced area of no static gear on the maerl and coarse shell gravel areas towards the west of the site, given the conservation objective of ‘recover’ for maerl in this site. We seek assurance that this will be closely monitored and further research on the impacts of static gear activities is planned.

In principle, we support the development of a management plan for anchorages to allow the continuation of sustainable levels of recreational sea-going activities. We would welcome the opportunity to participate in the development of that plan and support its review during its implementation. We are mindful of recently published evidence of the damaging effects of anchoring (and other activities) in seagrass beds (La Manna et al. 2015; McCloskey and Unsworth, 2015) and, given that the South Arran MPA is currently the only MPA designated for seagrass, we suggest the latest evidence informs that management plan.

Read our response to the MPA network consultation:

LINK support the designation of the South Arran possible Nature Conservation MPA to protect burrowed mud, herring spawning grounds, kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediments, maerl beds, maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers, ocean quahog, seagrass beds, shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves. This possible MPA will make a valuable contribution to protecting habitats representative of the areas of the Clyde more exposed to prevailing wind, wave and tidal action.

LINK has some concerns over the conservation objectives for this site. Seagrass beds should be set to ‘recover’ as they will have likely suffered some damage from the existing anchorage in Whiting Bay.

Remaining habitats should be set to ‘recover’ since the ecological status of the possible MPA is only ‘moderate’ as a result of morphological alteration from commercial fishing.

Management Options:
LINK believes that anchorages should be removed from seagrass beds in Whiting Bay; creel pressure should be reduced or limited on burrowed mud, maerl beds and seagrass beds, that hydraulic fishing methods be removed from the entire MPA, that use of towed/active gear should be removed from maerl beds, maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers and seagrass beds and that targeted fishing for ocean quahog and use of towed/active gear in ocean quahog habitat should be excluded.

In order to ensure that burrowed mud features are protected and enhanced, towed/active gear should be removed from those features. The waters of South Arran are considered of ‘moderate’ ecological status as a result of ‘Morphological alterations’ from commercial fishing . Since all the surrounding waters of Arran are also ‘moderate’ ecological status as result of commercial fishing altering the morphology of the seabed, removal of towed/active gear from South Arran MPA would contribute to both the possible MPA meeting its conservation objectives and the water body meeting Good Ecological Status. As the latter is currently ‘moderate’ it is also likely to rank similarly with regard to ‘seafloor integrity’ under the forthcoming Marine Strategy Framework Directive if this pressure is not removed.
In the absence of detailed information relating to the impacts of aquaculture on proposed protected features within an MPA it is imperative that the precautionary approach be applied. Discussions with finfish farming interests cannot be used as a proxy for specific, detailed information and where doubt exists management measures must be precautionary.

Socioeconomic Assessment:
LINK acknowledges the enormously important contribution of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust to bringing this possible MPA to the consultation stage. This contribution is an outstanding demonstration of the high value that local communities place on the integrity of their marine environment.
The involvement of the local community in this MPA proposal is an excellent example of the existence of the non-use value of MPAs that has been largely omitted from the economic assessments. The potential value of the South Arran possible MPA to divers and anglers has been estimated at £8.3million to £17.5million based on willingness-to-pay measures (Kenter et al., 2013) . Kenter et al. also found important emotional and well-being benefits associated with the South Arran possible MPA, with divers and anglers responding to questionnaire scoring >4 (out of a maximum score of 5) for engagement, therapeutic, spiritual, transformative and social wellbeing indicator values.

Note that the South Arran possible MPA contains the Lamlash Bay marine algae Important Plant Area. Some of the seabed of Lamlash Bay consists of soft substrata including patches of seagrass (Zostera spp).. There are also the remains of a deep maerl bed, which although has been extensively damaged by scallop dredging since 1970, still has significant area of maerl. More recently, previously undiscovered patches of maerl were found in excellent condition. Threatened or rare species – Lithothamnion corallioides.

Check out the official documents relating to the possible South Arran MPA on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.

Save Scottish Seas campaign members have assessed the Scottish Government’s MPA proposal for this site as part of its consultation response.

[1] South Arran MPA site summary document, SNH

South Arran MPA site summary document

Download the South Arran MPA site summary document

Contact the Save Scottish Seas team

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.