The Trust has joined other Scottish Environment LINK members in welcoming the launch of a public consultation detailing proposals to designate more marine protected areas (MPAs) in Scottish seas.
Four new MPAs, one of which spans the Sea of the Hebrides, will add to a developing network of protected areas across Scotland’s seas.
Once in place, with appropriate management of marine activities, these new MPAs would safeguard some of Scotland’s most iconic species, including the basking shark, the world’s second largest fish, minke whales and the little-known Risso’s dolphin.
The Trust will be launching a campaign later this summer to gain as much support as possible for these new MPAs. Keep an eye on our website for more information.
Responding to the launch of the consultation Dr Sam Collin, Marine Planning Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Scotland’s seas are vitally important for migratory species such as basking sharks. It is essential that we play our part in ensuring their conservation.
“The proposed areas represent further progress towards a coherent network of MPAs. Further work is needed to ensure these areas are effectively managed, so that when these species visit our waters they are protected.”
Basking sharks migrate to Scottish seas through the summer to feed and breed, but their numbers have declined historically due to commercial hunting. These species make popular viewing for Scotland’s growing wildlife-watching industry, in which whale-watching on the west coast alone is worth over £2 million.
The proposed MPA for the Sea of the Hebrides would be among the first protected areas for basking sharks in the world.
The proposed MPAs would also protect important seabed habitats, such as sea-fan and sponge communities and burrowed mud, which provide a home to many other marine species, and sandeels which are vital in the marine food web.
However, these proposals would protect the sites in name only; a further process will be required to implement management measures to reduce the impact of human activities on the protected species and habitats.
The announcement comes the day before World Oceans Day, a global initiative that recognises the importance of the marine environment for sustaining life on earth.
Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for Marine Conservation Society and Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Group added: “Scotland’s seas are globally important for a range of species and habitats, including the mighty basking shark, but they face increasing pressure from climate change and human activity.
“We know that Scotland’s wildlife and environmental quality are of immense value, both intrinsically and to our global reputation, and so are pleased these new sites are being proposed. It is vital such special places are properly protected from damaging activities to support wider marine ecosystem health and ensure Scotland is a beacon of ocean recovery worldwide.”
Species profile: basking shark
Scottish Environment LINK Blog: Whales and dolphins and sharks – oh my!