This has left a gaping loophole in measures meant to protect marine wildlife, according to a community environmental group. Fishermen, however, have hit back, warning that “ill-informed restrictions” must not be imposed on Scotland’s £30 million scallop-dredging industry.
With a carefully choreographed chorus of praise, the environment minister, Richard Lochhead MSP, announced on Thursday that Scotland’s “iconic marine species and habitats” were to get greater protection. Specially designated marine protected areas (MPAs) around the coast would, he promised, “enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations.”
But what he did not mention was that MPAs would still allow large, toothed rakes to be dragged across the seabed, threatening coral reefs, fish nurseries and other marine wildlife. This means that the new areas will be ineffectual, according to the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (Coast), a group set up to protect the waters around the island of Arran, off the west coast.
“This is more than a loophole,” Coast’s manager, Andrew Binnie, told the Sunday Herald. “As currently envisaged, dredging will continue over most of our MPA and others with the exception of a few select habitats within them.”