As the Scottish Parliament debates the designation of the Sound of Barra as a Special Area of Conservation, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) reiterate its support for the move due to the area’s internationally important reefs, sandbanks and common seals.
There are 19 different types of reef habitat in the Sound of Barra and the sandbanks support fragile and important features such as seagrass beds and probably the United Kingdom’s largest maerl beds.
Maerl, a fragile coral-like seaweed that forms beds on the seafloor, provides important nursery grounds for commercial species such as scallops, cod and whiting, but is susceptible to damage from some human activities like heavy towed fishing gears such as scallop dredges.
Calum Duncan, MCS Scotland Programme Manager said:
“Although out of sight, these fragile habitats are no less important to Scotland than the Glen Affric pine forests or Forsinard flow country.
“They are by no means ‘no-take zones’ and designation will not affect activities compatible with the conservation of these precious habitats.
“Creeling, pelagic fishing and hand-diving for scallops need not be restricted at all, provided they are managed to ensure they are within sustainable limits,” he added.
The MCS claim that by designating this site, it would help Scotland meet commitments under European law and make a valuable contribution to the Scottish Government’s duty to deliver a coherent network of marine protected areas in Scottish waters.
Calum Duncan continued:
“Marine protected areas are an essential tool, along with others, to help regenerate our seas.
“Careful management and protection of such sites will help secure a sustainable future for the fragile coastal communities that rely upon them.”
The MCS campaign for the protection of the living sea, aiming to secure its long-term future for generations to come.
According to the MCS website, 88% of the fish stocks in Europe are overfished or depleted.
For more information on the MCS and to learn how to get involved with future conservation campaigns, visit the Society’s website at www.mcsuk.org.
The MCS will be holding an event for World Ocean Day on June 8. Further details of this event can be found on the Society’s website.