Lamlash Shows the Way for Marine Protection

One of the best things about representing a region stretching from Loch Lomond to Irvine is having the opportunity to regularly enjoy some of Scotland’s most beautiful places. That recently included a trip to Arran for the launch of a very special boat.

COST (Community of Arran Seabed Trust) was set up in 1995 by a couple of local divers who were shocked by how quickly the seabed and marine wildlife had been destroyed by destructive fishing practices. They brought the local community, including fishers, together to campaign for special protection for the area.

In 2008 part of Lamlash Bay became Scotland’s first no-take zone, meaning all fishing is banned there. In 2014 the whole of the south of Arran was designated as a Marine Protected Area, meaning that some particularly damaging fishing methods such as dredging are banned.

COAST have continued to go from strength to strength and are still working to protect the local marine environment and ensuring local people reap the benefits. They have an education & outreach centre and are working with academics to conduct cutting-edge research.

I joined them last week for the launch of the RV COAST Explorer. This brand new, custom-built boat will be used for education, research and citizen science.

The boat was made possible by £200,000 from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, established by the Scottish Greens.

Having been on one of the Explorer’s first trips, I’m extremely impressed with the boat and know it’ll be of huge benefit to the community and the marine environment.

My trip on the Explorer was around Lamlash Bay’s No Take Zone, which has made the news recently given its status as a de-facto pilot for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).

With our marine environment in a pretty catastrophic state, the Scottish Government intends to designate 10% of our seas as HPMAs in the next few years. Lamlash Bay is an amazing example of how successful this approach will be for both local communities and for nature.

Not only has the marine environment recovered to an astounding extent and the marine tourism industry benefitted as a result, it has also been a big boost to the local fishing industry.

Commercially important species like scallop and lobster in the surrounding waters are now bigger and more plentiful as a result of the NTZ giving them a safe space in which to recover from overfishing and habitat destruction.

Despite the sustained campaign of misinformation waged against HPMAs by the Tories and Labour (contradicting their own manifesto commitments to increase marine protection!), Lamlash Bay provides an irrefutable example of how beneficial this approach is for both the marine environment and for coastal & island communities and the jobs they rely on.

Find out more in our film here: