Many people on the isle of Arran are celebrating today. The only community-developed and proposed marine protected area (MPA), the South Arran MPA, has now been designated by the Scottish Government.
Following three years of community campaigning and consultation, the South Arran MPA has been designated with 29 others to form a network of MPAs around Scotland dedicated to marine habitat protection and recovery.
This is a far better result than was achieved in England where, initially, only 27 out of a possible 127 were designated.
Could it be that the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland, with advice from Scottish Natural Heritage, have begun to show the sort of leadership our inshore waters have long needed?
They certainly deserve praise for designating the Scottish MPA network in the face of stiff opposition from vested interests.
However, there is still much to be done.
In order for the South Arran and Clyde MPAs to deliver environmental, social and economic benefits to coastal communities on Arran and around the Clyde, we need to ensure that these MPAs do not become “paper parks” lacking effective management.
Unfortunately, the management measures as currently envisaged by the Scottish Government for the South Arran MPA will still allow scallop dredging to continue over many fragile habitats.
This will undermine the Arran MPA’s potential to contribute functionally to a healthier more productive Clyde.
We urge the government and others to resist pressure from scallop dredger and bottom trawler associations to dilute the management measures for Scotland’s MPA network.
All in all, though, the South Arran MPA designation deserves to be celebrated.
It is a testament to the powerful role that coastal communities can play in regenerating their marine ecosystems.
Coast hopes other communities are inspired and that this is the start of what could be a turning point in the recovery and protection of our seas for generations to come.
• Andrew Binnie is manager of Community of Arran Seabed Trust (Coast)