I don’t know about you but I think the coasts and islands of Scotland are special beyond measure. Whenever I board a Cal Mac ferry you look forward to the journey with great expectation. It’s not just the sense of leaving the mainland and the anticipation of reaching your Island destination. The journey itself offers myriad experiences – the light on the water, mist or rain over distant hills and cliffs, white sandy bays, a glimpse of a dolphin or gannets suddenly plunging in the grey waters.
I’m lucky in that I not only have the chance to travel to Scotland’s Island communities for pleasure, but I also can escape my desk and travel for work purposes to visit our staff teams and see their work.
But as I travel our inshore waters I am conscious that these areas provide a livelihood for fishermen, and increasingly the oil and gas industry is being joined by new technologies keen to exploit the power of the wind and waves – to provide energy. Add to that the recreational uses for sailing, diving and wildlife watching and you can see why we need a more joined up system to plan how we use the seas and coasts.
That is why RSPB Scotland welcomed the Marine Act of 2010. In particular we were delighted that the Act established a process to establish Marine Protected Areas, where the most important areas for wildlife could be protected from inappropriate use or exploitation. This would help deliver the Scottish Government’s commitment to have an ecologically coherent network of protected areas by 2012, a commitment made not only at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, but repeated ever since .
Photo: Chris Gomersall (RSPB-images.com)
Well, what’s happening? In short, as little as possible. Marine Scotland appears to be putting conservation at the bottom of the list of priorities. Sites of outstanding importance for seabirds, marine mammals and sandeels, such as the Wee Bankie, are being quietly shelved. Our Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP promised parliament that MPAs would be selected on the basis of science. Well, some of his civil servants seem not to have heard about this and are busy protecting areas for commercial development – rather than protecting marine biodiversity.
It’s not good enough and we are not going to go quietly – read more about this soon. Meantime, if you’re as angry about this as we are, you can help by becoming a letter-writer for our marine campaign. Please register your details here and we’ll be in touch.
Stuart, We are off to the Uists in September and I am sure will take a few boat trips whilst there. I know we will come away with a good feeling about that area of Scotland and it would be tempting to ask what's the problem. Because the issue is not a visible one I suspect most people don't understand why it is so important. That is clearly why the RSPB and others have to make waves.
Why is it that these politicians promise a lot and deliver almost nothing. Surely sound science must form the basis of the selection of Marine Protection Areas (MPAs). It would be acting irresponsibly not to use that yard stick as the main and key parameter for designation of MPAs