What future for our seabed? An update on MPAs in Scotland in 2016

15 Jan 2016

PeacockWorms-SabellaPavonina-WA-TonyGThe last few years have seen some major changes in the way we regulate our seas (see our ‘2015 – a year in tweets’ blog). 2016 looks to be no different, not least because we are now beginning to see designated Marine Protected Areas taking effect. As you will read in other sections of this newsletter, there has been extensive consultation on the management of fisheries in certain inshore MPAs.

On the 27th January, the Rural Affairs Committee is set to consider fishing orders for a number of inshore MPAs and these new regulations – if approved by the Committee – are set to come into force by 8th February. However, today it was announced that motions to annul both the South Arran MCO and the omnibus Inshore Fishing Order were submitted. The motions (S4M – 15337 and S4M – 15336) were lodged by Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor.

This will prompt a Committee debate – it is essential that our political representatives are given a clear understanding of the depth of community support for better management of our inshore waters. The message during the last full public consultation in January 2015 was that people throughout Scotland did not want paper parks. So let’s make sure that we Don’t Take The ‘P’ out of MPAs in 2016.

We are generally supportive of the proposed orders currently laid before Parliament, but, in addition to our latest response to recently re-consulted proposals for three sites (Small Isles, Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura), we also have outstanding concerns about Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil MPA Luce Bay and Sands SAC (and check this blog for more information as it is updated).

Furthermore, the wider process is far from over. Although management will shortly be in place for around 20 inshore MPAs, there are a number of other measures required to establish the full network of MPAs that can start doing what it says on the tin – PROTECT (and we argue – urgently RECOVER) our seas.

  • More MPAs (Sea of the Hebrides, Shiant East Bank, Northeast Lewis and Southern Trench) for mobile species (basking sharks, whales and dolphins) and some habitats
  • Fisheries management for other inshore MPAs sites (Sound of Arisaig SAC, North Rona SAC, East Caithness Cliffs MPA, Loch Moidart SAC, Dornoch Firth SAC, Moray Firth SAC, Sound of Barra SAC, Monach Isles SAC, Loch nam Madadh SAC, Clyde Sea Sill MPA, Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary SAC, Isle of May SAC, Moine Mhor SAC, Solway Firth SAC, Sullem Voe SAC
  • SPAs for seabirds
  • Management for offshore MPAs (see Delving deeper – protecting Scotland’s offshore MPAs)
  • Harbour porpoise SACs

This might seem like a significant body of new regulation, but once in place these protections will help provide a safety net for our seas, as well as actively promoting the regeneration of habitats and other sea life which has suffered historical decline. These MPAs will also provide the regulatory certainty that commercial operators and developers need to be able to plan future projects and activities.

If you, your community, organisation or colleagues are keen to keep up to date with the process, check this blog for regular information and sign up to this newsletter for occasional updates.

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