MORE than 10,000 people have voiced their support for controversial proposals to establish a network of marine protected areas around Scotland’s coast to help safeguard threatened species.
The Scottish Government launched a public consultation in June after publishing its first ever blueprint for the future management of Scotland’s seas, aimed at reversing centuries of environmental decline.
The proposals include the creation of 33 marine protected areas to safeguard internationally significant populations of marine animals as well as fragile stretches of the seabed from the threat caused by fishing and other human activity.
The consultation period on the proposals ended today, and the conservation taskforce leading the call for action has revealed that their campaign has already been supported by more than 10,000 people.
The Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce is a coalition of environmental charities, including the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, the Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and WWF Scotland.
Calum Duncan, convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce and Scotland programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society said: “The proposed Marine Protected Areas will be an important first step but there will still be major gaps in the network, notably for seabirds, whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks, as well as other fragile seabed features.”
He continued: “It’s great to see this level of support for the proposals, but also to highlight these gaps to the Scottish Government. Beneath our waves is a precious marine landscape containing awe-inspiring biodiversity that sustains Scotland’s maritime culture and economy. We must collectively make sure these MPAs do not end up becoming paper parks as has happened in other countries.”
The Government’s proposed marine action plan is aimed at providing a single framework to manage all activity in Scottish waters, providing “clarity” to developers and decision makers on Scotland’s priorities for the sustainable use of seas around Scotland’s coast.
The proposed network of new Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas, if designated, will create a strategic patchwork of protected areas in both inshore and offshore waters designed to give sea life - such as corals, sponges and fish - a chance to return to better health.
RSPB Scotland, however, has claimed the plans for Marine Protected Areas will do nothing to protect the majority of Scotland’s seabirds.
The charity has argued that many seabird species such as puffins and kittiwakes are suffering worrying declines in numbers as while they are protected on land, without MPAs to protect their foraging areas, their colonies will simply become “a safe place to starve.”
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