Wyre and Rousay Sounds MPA

The Wyre and Rousay Sounds Marine Protected Area (MPA) sits at the margin of the Atlantic and the North Sea. The tides are squeezed between the islands of Rousay, Wyre and Egilsay creating the perfect conditions for maerl beds and seaweed communities to thrive on the sandy sea bed. Maerl is a red seaweed with a hard, chalky skeleton. It forms pink nodules or branched shapes on shallow sandy sea beds where sunlight can penetrate, up to around 20 m depth. Where conditions are good, dense beds of maerl can form, covering a large area and growing tens of centimetres deep. Maerl creates a complex matrix to which sedentary animals such as peacock worms and sponges anchor themselves and in which small plants and animals take shelter from ripping tidal currents and predators. Larger animals such as gobies and crabs roam the maerl bed hunting for prey, and are themselves rich pickings for larger fish and diving seabirds. [1]

History of the MPA

This site was designated in 2014 and a Wyre and Rousay Sound MPAThe public consultation on management measures for the site ran until February 2015. The site now has management measures in place for fishing activities.

Read our response to proposed management measures for this site

We support the proposed approach to prohibit the operation of bottom towed gear throughout this site. Situated where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet, this MPA sits on a geologically important area of calcium carbonate (chalk) production, which makes it a good habitat for shellfish and carbonate-based organisms such as maërl. Maërl beds are made up of a special type of hard red algae that grows extremely slowly (as little as 2.5cm per year) in a delicate, branching formation. Its structure provides a sheltered habitat for many other species, including juvenile fish and shellfish and other invertebrates. Maërl beds and other types of maërl habitats are highly sensitive to bottom-towed fishing gears and other impacts caused by humans such as sedimentation and chemical pollution; they are easily damaged or destroyed and can take up to 10 years to even start to recover.

The Wyre and Rousay Sound ncMPA also encloses particular habitats made up of kelp and seaweed. These types of habitat act as a refuge for juvenile fish and a safe feeding ground for larger marine animals, but are sensitive to disturbance by the operation of bottom-towed fishing gear. Keeping this site free of bottom-towed fishing activities will help to preserve its unique geological character and the biodiversity it supports.

Map of Wyre and Rousay Sounds MPA (Scottish marine protected area)Save Scottish Seas campaign members have assessed the Scottish Government’s MPA proposal for this site as part of its consultation response.

Our response to MPA network consultation

LINK supports the designation of the Wyre and Rousay Sounds possible Nature Conservation MPA to protect kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment and maerl beds, and geodiversity feature marine geomorphology of the Scottish shelf seabed. The boundary is fully supported. The proposed MPA contains excellent examples of maerl in an area of the largest discontinuous extent of the feature anywhere in the UK, in largely unmodified condition forming an important habitat mosaic with kelp and seaweed communities.

The conservation objective ‘conserve’ for all features is supported.

Management Options:
We note that the distribution of features within the site limits the ability to apply zoned management. We support the prohibition of maerl extraction from the site and the exclusion of mobile/active fishing gear within the entirety of the site. Careful monitoring of the static gear and hand-derived bivalve fishery will be required to ensure no impact on conservation objectives.
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:
It is possible that the existing static gear and dived fisheries, providing they are sustainably managed, will benefit from a reduction in mobile gear which impacts on benthic communities.

The potential value of the Wyre and Rousay Sounds possible MPA to divers and sea anglers has been estimated at £5.0 to £10.6 million based on willingness-to-pay measures (Kenter et al., 2013) . Kenter et al. also found important emotional and well-being benefits associated with the Wyre and Rousay Sounds possible MPA, with divers and anglers responding to questionnaire scoring >4 (out of a maximum score of 5) for engagement, spiritual and transformative wellbeing indicator values.

The possible MPA provides an opportunity to protect excellent examples of important features in this region and an opportunity to apply management measures across the whole site.
We also note that this pMPA is adjacent to area TN2 tidal scoping area of search. Should tidal energy development be licensed in TN2, it is imperative that any possible impact on changes to the tidal regime affecting the excellent quality habitats in Wyre and Rousay Sound should be fully considered.

Check out the official documents relating to the possible Wyre and Rousay Sounds MPA on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.

[1] Wyre and Rousay Sound MPA site summary document, SNH

Wyre and Rousay Sound MPA site summary document

Download the Wyre and Rousay Sound MPA site summary document

Contact the Save Scottish Seas team

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