A SCOTTISH diver has won one the world’s most prestigious environmental awards for his pioneering work in safeguarding marine life.
Howard Wood, is tonight set to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize at a ceremony in San Francisco in recognition of his work campaigning to set up the country’s first “no take” zones prohibiting fishing in a stretch of Lamlash Bay.
Mr Wood, 61, chairman and co-founder of COAST (Community of Arran Seabed Trust), has spent 20 years working to reverse the effects dredging was having on the seabed, and allowing it to recover.
This is the first time the $175,000 (£117,000) award, the largest for grassroots environmentalists has come to Scotland, and the second time it has been awarded to someone in the UK since it began in 1990.
Speaking prior to travelling to the US, Mr Wood said: “The work of Coast goes back to before 1995, when we could see that the seabed around Arran was being basically dredged away.
“We wanted to have a trial area to find out what happens when you close a small area to all fishing.
“It took us years to get there, but we did get there in 2008.”
A recent study has revealed the area has seen an increase in the size of scallops as well as boost in the number of juvenile scallops.
COAST is now promoting sustainable fishing methods such as creeling, hand-diving for scallops and angling
Recently it led a successful campaign to set up one of Scotland’s first marine protected areas (MPAs).
Mr Wood added: “Scotland has a legacy of vested interests controlling access to public marine resources and there is still a great deal of work to be done to overturn decades of mismanagement.
“If people really understood how Scotland’s marine resources have been plundered over the years, they would be appalled.”
The Scottish government congratulated Mr Woods but also defended its record.
A spokesman said: “Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas network, which includes the largest MPA in the EU, helps protect and enhance our marine environment so that the rich diversity of life in the waters around Scotland, and the benefits they bring, can be enjoyed for generations to come. “We recently consulted on potential management measures for MPAs and will shortly implement measures that take account of all views received.
“The current preferred management approach would achieve the conservation objectives of the protected features and reduce the footprint of trawling and dredging considerably.”