The Environment Secretary Comes to COAST

Scottish Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, visited COAST this week at Scotland’s first MPA visitor centre, the Octopus Centre.

During the Scottish Cabinet’s visit to Arran on Monday 27th August, the Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, made a trip to Coast where she was welcomed by co-founder Howard Wood, and shown round the new Octopus centre by members of staff and volunteers. The Octopus Centre is the first MPA visitor centre in Scotland, with the official opening just a short way off on 22nd of this month. It is 10 years, nearly to the day, since the establishment of Scotland’s first No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay. On the 20th September 2008, the first UK community led Marine Reserve was designated by the Scottish Parliament. 

Today, COAST is recognised worldwide as one of the UK’s leading community marine conservation organisations, enjoying widespread support on Arran and beyond. The work of Howard Wood and the team at COAST have brought the government and marine policy a long way since their early days of campaigning, when they were mostly told by officials that sea management is “solely a matter between ourselves and commercial fishermen”. Now with organisations like COAST, the question of just who ‘owns’ Scotland’s seas, and how to protect them, is far less narrow and much more high profile.

A huge amount of hard work by staff and volunteers has brought the Octopus centre to life, and it is a lovely place to be. Filled with interactive displays, there are books to read and videos to watch which tell visitors all about the work of COAST and our marine environment. A marine tank crawling with interesting sea life stands in the centre of the main room. During her visit Roseanna Cunningham had an in engaging tour of the centre with staff members Sue Ash and Jenny Stark, and met scientists and research students who continue to conduct research within the MPA.

COAST report that on Monday she committed to tackling the serious issues of biodiversity loss and climate change, so hopefully she and her colleagues (Fergus Ewing who looks after the Rural Economy and Fisheries) will take the issues they are calling for right to the heart of the Holyrood government. COAST say that “If our government really wants to protect our extraordinary sea life, safeguard Scotland’s blue carbon stocks, recover the diverse and healthy fisheries we used to have and promote low impact sustainable fishing, here is how to do it:

Coastal communities and organisations across Scotland are asking her to reinstate the 3 nautical mile limit to bottom-towed gear, scrapped in 1984 by Thatcher’s government, and extend it to a “Sustainable Six” mile limit that permits fishing and other economic activities where proven to be sustainable.
This precautionary and integrated approach to marine management would save communities from having to remind the government time and time again of their duties by fighting off outlandish developments in our seas: latterly a proposal for widespread mechanical kelp dredging, and the massive expansion of fish farming in Kilbrannan Sound put forward by the insatiable and environmentally damaging salmon industry”.

If you want to get involved, COAST are currently looking for volunteers at the Octopus Centre, to greet visitors in the reception area, look after the shop and show visitors aspects of the displays. They will give all training required. All interested parties please email: info@arrancoast.com or ring us on 01770 600656, or pop into the Centre.