Don’t let our legacy be their burden – 2018, Scotland’s Year of Young People, must be the year Scotland invests in healthy seas for the benefit of current and future generations.
With just two years until 2020, the year by which Scotland has committed to halting biodiversity loss, and also the Year of Scotland’s Coast and Waters, environmental groups say investment is urgently needed to put Scotland’s seas firmly on the road to recovery. The call builds upon the growing interest of Scotland’s young people in protecting and recovering marine life.
Recovering Scotland’s amazing marine life will benefit the environment and people alike. Scotland’s seas are vital to its society, culture and economy – they provide jobs (79,000 in 2017), encourage tourism, provide unique opportunities to develop innovative technologies, and play a vital role in mitigating climate change. More than 40% of Scotland’s population live within 5km of the coast, which also homes thousands of amazing, unique and occasionally bizarre marine animals and plants.
As highlighted on the BBC’s Blue Planet 2, and Scotland’s own Marine Atlas, Scotland’s seas are in a poor state, and increasing pressures from human activity and climate change further threaten their health. Without adequately investing in our seas now we risk undermining the wealth of benefits that they can provide.
There is a significant level of interest among Scotland’s youth in taking part in environmental projects aimed at safeguarding and recovering marine life. These range from campaigns to reduce our use of plastic to surveying whales and dolphins. Environmental groups expect that this level of interest will only grow as our awareness of the threats facing Scotland’s seas increases.
To help secure Scotland’s vital marine resources, environmental groups say that the timely completion of a network of Marine Protected Areas is urgently needed, and that the development and implementation of integrated regional-scale marine plans will ensure sustainable management of all activity within Scotland’s inshore waters.
Supporting the recovery of Scotland’s seas will help to secure the benefits of Scotland’s seas for young people now and into the future, and ensure that 2020, the Year of Scotland’s Coast and Waters, is a milestone year for marine conservation.
Calum Duncan, Marine Conservation Society, Scottish Environment LINK Marine Group convenor “When we talk about marine conservation and the enhancement of our seas, we are also talking about securing future opportunities for Scotland’s young people. Whilst recognising that budgets are tight and tightening, now is the time to capitalise on the progress made to date and the growing interest in our seas. We have a responsibility to reduce the burden for future generations, and a unique opportunity to invest in the future of Scotland’s young people by investing in our seas.”
Alison Lomax, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust “Through our work in schools and with youth groups it’s clear that young people are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues and that they want to do something about it. Involving young people in caring for our seas is crucial, providing opportunities to learn about and experience marine life and culture will provide them with the skills they will need to work in and nurture our seas into the future. But we must also act now to make sure we leave them with a marine environment they can still work with.”
Sarah Dolman, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Scottish Environment LINK Marine Group vice-convenor “Scotland’s seas are home to amazing megafauna including minke whale, basking shark, the unusual Risso’s dolphin and the most northerly population of bottlenose dolphins. Unfortunately, some of these and other iconic marine species, such as harbour seals are in decline, and we need to do all we can to support their recovery before it is too late. Scotland has made great progress on Marine Protected Areas for vulnerable seabed habitats and we hope this year sees sufficient funding in place to fill vital mobile species gaps in the network”.
Sam Collin, Scottish Wildlife Trust “Marine planning will play a vital role in sustainably managing human activity in Scotland’s seas and protecting its valuable wildlife. Scotland’s Regional Marine Plans will be a key component in the recovery of our seas and will help establish a healthy foundation that future generations can benefit from and build upon. It is essential that sufficient funds are made available now to support the development and implementation of these plans over the coming years.”
- Scotland’s maritime economy: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00529390.pdf and coastal assets: http://www.hutton.ac.uk/sites/default/files/files/publications/hutton_coast_booklet_web.pdf
- A map showing the concerning and declining state of Scotland’s seas can be found here: http://www.savescottishseas.org/save-scottish-seas/recover/. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the definitive list for the global conservation of species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/
- 2017 saw pupils from Ullapool Primary and Sunnyside Primary in Glasgow, as well as Cramond Primary in Edinburgh join national campaigns to reduce the use of single-use plastics: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/ullapool-going-plastic-straw-free. Teens (age 16-17) took part in marine mammal surveys run by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, adding to the evidence base for Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas: https://hwdt.org/news/2017/12/05/rosies-story, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Shorewatch Dolphin surveys: https://shorewatch.whales.org/. The National Trust for Scotland’s Ranger Service delivers educational activities for schoolchildren at locations around Scotland’s Coast from Inverewe, Iona, Balmacara to Culzean and St Abbs Head. Shore based activities, including exploring the life of rockpools, are one of the most popular activities and we introduced over 2000 pupils to the excitement of marine life at Culzean Country Park in 2017.
- 2020 biodiversity targets include: the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Strategy can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Environment/Wildlife-Habitats/biodiversity/BiodiversityStrategy. Global Aichi Biodiversity Targets: https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/. Marine Strategy Framework Directive targets can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/marine/eu-coast-and-marine-policy/marine-strategy-framework-directive/index_en.htm
- 30 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were designated in 2014, as part of a wider network of MPAs designed to give marine life – such as corals, seabirds and fish – a chance to return to better health. More recent designations include the Inner Hebrides Special Area of Conservation for Harbour Porpoise in 2016 and the designation of the Loch Carron MPA in 2017. Scotland’s MPA network can be seen here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/mpanetwork.
- There are 11 Marine Regions. Shetland remains the only region with an operational RMP, although work is underway to develop plans for the Clyde and Orkney. Information about Regional Marine Plans can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/seamanagement/regional/partnerships