Scottish Government introduces emergency MPA in Loch Carron
Divers recently discovered extensive damage to the flame shell reef in Loch Carron after the water was dredged twice by scallop fishermen in April
Fishing boat - credit: PA
The Scottish Government has introduced an emergency ban on scallop fishing in Loch Carron in an attempt to protect the remaining parts of the damaged reef.
Divers recently discovered extensive damage to the flame shell reef in Loch Carron after the water was dredged twice by scallop fishermen in April.
The Scottish Government today responded by designating the loch as a Marine Protected Area, following an assessment from SNH.
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But while Scottish Natural Heritage said the reef still had a viable chance of recovery, Open Seas, a group campaigning for sustainable seafood, warned the action was “too little, too late”.
The Marine Conservation Society (MSC) identified part of Loch Carron as a site in need of protection back in 2013, but the recommendation was not taken forward at the time.
Announcing the emergency measures, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “We take our duty to protect Scotland's rich marine environment extremely seriously and recognise the importance of safeguarding vulnerable habitats like flame shell beds.
“By introducing a Marine Protected Area and putting in place a ban on dredging we hope to ensure the recovery of the flame shell beds in Loch Carron.
“While we recognise there are concerns around scallop dredging in coastal waters, we must balance environmental concerns with the need for legitimate and sustainable fishing.”
MCS, which has been calling for more effective management of inshore fisheries, responded to say that it is now imperative for flameshell beds and other priority features outside designated sites to be identified and protected.
Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation Scotland, said: “Whilst this loophole of inshore fisheries management led to damage, we are hopeful that there is sufficient healthy reef left to return Loch Carron to its natural state, given time.
“The decision shows how crucial the efforts of dedicated divers rapidly recording video footage and submitting Seasearch records shortly after the event were. It is therefore good to see the rapid response from Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland Science to the harm done to Loch Carron, corroborating the citizen science evidence.”
Nick Underdown, campaigns manager at Open Seas, called for tougher action from ministers.
He said: “The Scottish government are glossing over a much broader problem of scallop dredging impact throughout our coastal waters. They haven't even taken steps to protect flame shells in other areas where they remain intact.
“Incredibly this includes places where they exist in the Small Isles Marine Protected Area - the waters around Rum which still have no protection at all.
“The Scottish government's management of our inshore waters is prehistoric, piecemeal and it's hurting our rural economy too.”
The move follows an emergency ban on scallop fishing in Loch Carron, introduced by ministers in attempt to protect remaining parts of a flame shell reef
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Roseanna Cunningham said Dr Mike Cantlay would “bring a wealth of experience" to SNH