Dredging in essential habitat sparks row over UK marine protected areas

Footage exhibiting protected Scottish waters raked clear by scallop dredgers exhibits that marine protected areas are “paper parks”, say campaigners


5 October 2022

Scar marks across the seabed indicate scallop dredging continues legally inside the protected area

Scar marks throughout the seabed present the influence of scallop dredging contained in the protected space

Open Seas

A recent row has damaged out over the effectiveness of the UK’s marine safety schemes after proof emerged of a seabed in protected Scottish waters raked clear by scallop dredgers.

Earlier this summer season, marketing campaign teams Open Seas and Greenpeace despatched underwater drones to movie the seabed contained in the Small Isles Marine Protected Space (MPA), protected waters across the isle of Rum on Scotland’s west coast.

The footage suggests an space of maerl – a fragile, slow-growing type of coral – contained in the protected zone has been destroyed by dredging exercise, with the seabed lowered to a sequence of naked, furrowed tracks.

The teams say the proof is proof that the Small Isles MPA is a “paper park” that isn’t protected by bans on damaging fishing strategies.

It’s presently authorized for scallop dredgers and backside trawlers to fish on this MPA and dozens of others across the UK shoreline, regardless of protests by environmental campaigners.

“The vast majority of MPAs within the UK nonetheless haven’t any type of fisheries administration in place in any respect,” says Phil Taylor, head of coverage and operations at Open Seas. “So they’re paper parks. And that is the worst instance of a paper park that we’ve got come throughout.”

The Small Isles MPA, designated by the Scottish authorities in 2014, is considered some of the vital marine habitats within the UK. It’s dwelling to the uncommon fan mussel (Atrina fragilis) alongside fragile marine habitats similar to burrowed mud and maerl beds.

Two years in the past, the realm of seabed surveyed by Open Seas and Greenpeace featured a “just about intact” carpet of maerl, says Taylor. Now the positioning appears like a “ploughed subject”, he says.

Healthy seabed

A wholesome mearl mattress

Iain Dixon / Open Seas

Research have repeatedly proven that scallop dredging causes catastrophic harm to maerl beds.

Maerl is the European equal of a coral reef, appearing as nursery environments for marine life, says Jason Corridor-Spencer on the College of Plymouth, UK.

However they solely develop 1 millimetre a yr and so battle to get better from dredging actions. “These are hundreds of years outdated, these habitat varieties,” he says. “If you happen to harm a maerl mattress, it received’t develop again.”

The Scottish authorities is now underneath renewed stress to ban scallop dredging inside its MPAs, with Open Seas calling for an instantaneous ban.

Greater than a 3rd of UK coastal waters are coated by MPAs, however backside trawling is banned in simply 4.

In response to the findings, a spokesperson for the Scottish authorities stated fisheries administration measures can be launched to all its MPAs by 2024, together with the Small Isles MPA.

“The Scottish Authorities is decided to guard our treasured marine surroundings and obtain and keep good environmental standing for all of Scotland’s seas,” they stated in a press release. “We take our duty to guard the marine surroundings severely.”

Campaigners say imposing harder fishing guidelines on protected habitats will drastically enhance the UK’s marine biodiversity. In Lyme Bay in Dorset, for instance, trawling and dredging have been banned in 2008 and the realm has seen a dramatic revival in marine biodiversity.

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