Scotland’s marine environment is vast. It covers an area six times its land mass, over 60% of the UK’s seas, and provides society with a wealth of benefits.
These benefits include food, jobs, recreation, education, and the ability to lock away an enormous amount of carbon – Scotland’s marine sediments alone can capture the equivalent of around two-thirds of the nation’s annual carbon emissions each year.
Scotland’s seas are arguably the country’s greatest natural asset. As a maritime nation it is essential we all recognise the benefits they provide us with, and also our responsibility to act as stewards of this incredible environment.
Scotland’s marine sediments alone can store the equivalent of around two-thirds of the nation’s annual carbon emissions.
However, despite the key role the marine environment has played in shaping Scotland’s society and culture, it cannot be ignored that our seas are in a poor state of health.
Many fish stocks continue to be over-exploited, seabird populations have, on average, declined by 38% over the last 30 years, and the number of Atlantic salmon caught in 2019 was the lowest on record.
And if these trends are not concerning enough, climate change threatens to have a further major effect on the condition of our seas.
It’s time for change
We are at a crunch time where swift, meaningful and long-lasting action is required if we are going to change the story of our seas.
This is why the Year of Coasts and Waters is so important, and why the Trust sees this as a year of opportunity to celebrate what we have and improve the health of Scotland’s seas.
To achieve the transformative change needed to secure a positive future for Scotland’s seas, the Trust would like to see action in three priority areas in 2020:
- Putting nature’s recovery at the heart of key policies and management decisions that determine how we use the marine environment;
- A drive to increase public awareness and understanding of the importance of a healthy marine environment and the critical role it plays in our lives; and
- The establishment of a Marine Stewardship Fund that ensures all industries operating within the marine environment that either benefit from or have an impact on its health support the recovery and enhancement of the sea.
Failure to act now, in the face of the growing climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, will lead to even greater declines in our marine environment. But if we can reverse the fortunes of our marine environment we will have even more reason to celebrate our seas in years to come.
Dr Sam Collin, Marine Planning Manager
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Scotland’s marine environment is vast. It covers an area six times its land mass, over 60% of the UK’s seas, and provides society with a wealth of benefits. These benefits …