By Sally Campbell
Sir David Attenborough in closing the Programme “Extinction: The Facts” said with heartfelt conviction:
“I do truly believe that together we can create a better future. I might not be here to see it. If we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard the planet’s ecosystems, its extraordinary biodiversity and all its inhabitants. What happens next is up to every one of us”.
So what action is being taken NOW to safeguard our seas for example, and precious offshore Marine Protected Areas? “For our government to be taken seriously as a leader in marine protection, it must ban supertrawler operations in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas.” The worst affected MPAs in 2019 were the Wyville Thomson Ridge (off the Shetlands), Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope (off the Hebrides), Offshore Overfalls (south coast), Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt (off the Shetlands), Darwin Mounds (off the Hebrides) and Southern North Sea (east of England).
1. North Sea action – protecting supposedly “protected areas” against destructive fishing
Greenpeace research showed supertrawlers spent 2963 hours fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2019, the equivalent of 123 days. Over the last few months they have been running a campaign to expose how areas of UK waters that are supposed to be protected are, in fact, anything but – with industrial vessels regularly trawling the bottom of the seabed with nets, ripping up everything in their path. Here’s a link to their investigation exposing the problem; a warning, it is toxic !
Having spent months raising the issue with MPs, and having witnessed a fleet of bottom trawlers operating in the Marine Protected Area of Dogger Bank (North Sea) this June, Greenpeace exposed how the government has still failed to act – preferring to hide behind empty rhetoric about their commitment to ocean protection. So Greenpeace sailed their ship Esperanza to Dogger Bank – where they placed almost 50 square miles of ocean physically off limits to all bottom trawling. This designated Marine Protected Area (MPA) is already failing (the government says it is in an “unfavourable” state) and has already seen extensive bottom trawling – one of the most destructive fishing methods possible. Greenpeace placed inert natural boulders at periodic intervals inside the new bottom trawling exclusion zone to actively give protection to the rich diversity of marine life in the area, including the seabirds, dolphins and seals who feed there. And if the government can fix the problem – and properly protect the area – Greenpeace will remove the boulders.
More info on the press release
For a full analysis of how the UK Government is failing our MPAs and the recommendations that Greenpeace suggests they implement ASAP, read their report Bright Blue Seas https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/resources/bright-blue-seas-mpa-report/, with a forward by Chris Packham.
It is not just Dogger Bank at issue. Our inshore waters in Scotland need a radical re-think in terms of sustainable fisheries, a reduction in salmon aquaculture farms, control of dredging for scallops and bottom trawling, a strategic look at overall sustainable communities, environmentally, economically, and socially for the long term. Just last month Mowi lost almost 100,000 salmon from one of their Carradale farms through deaths and escapes due to anchor ropes being severed during Storm Ellen. Now they are planning another farm in North Kilbrannan Sound. That is in addition to the fight ongoing over the proposal for North Arran salmon farm for Scottish Salmon Company. In the last 5 years (2015-19) the 16 salmon fish farms in the Clyde discharged from their farms untreated into the inshore marine environment:
Who will put a stop to these expansions and environmental destruction of ecosystems around the western fringes of Scotland and short term profits for multinational companies? How can we make the ecosystems and economic productivity of Scottish inshore waters more sustainable for the long term? How can we become active protectors of our environment and its complex and connected ecosystems of which we are a part and in turn provide long term productive roles for local communities ?
2. News from the Arctic ice edge – second-lowest sea ice minimum ever recorded
The Arctic Sunrise, also Greenpeace’s ship, has sailed to the Arctic ice edge with a team of scientists to bear witness to the sea ice minimum – a crucial indicator of climate breakdown – which this year is at the second-lowest levels since records began. The climate crisis is melting the sea ice that has long protected the Arctic ocean from human exploitation – and the Arctic is warming faster than any other place on the planet. We have all seen film pieces on the news, of fires in Siberia and permafrost melting accompanied by houses and roads collapsing. These findings just serve to reinforce the critical need for global reductions in carbon emissions alongside the creation of ocean sanctuaries. The Arctic sea ice has already lost two-thirds of its volume and there is a consistent decline in sea ice extent over the past decades.
Greenpeace has been using this Arctic expedition as a platform to push world leaders at the UN Biodiversity Summit on 30 September to commit to doing just that. The UN summit is a really important moment as it is now the only major political meeting happening in 2020 with the climate and nature emergencies as a focus. We should be giving our full support to organisations like Greenpeace working on a big public platform informing us the public, and all politicians of what needs to change. I cannot personally drop 1 tonne boulders into our marine environment to protect it from damaging ecosystem trawling but the visual and reporting impact by Greenpeace from the Dogger Bank MPA and Arctic journey can have huge responses in changing public and government attitudes and action to marine protection, which is needed so much in this time of uncertainty and change.
Scotland does need to think more seriously about climate change and become more sustainable. Arran will inevitably experience more violent tidal surges due to rain and wind and lose coast roads, even golf courses to inundation. What is our strategy for the next 30 years? What about energy? So what can we do on Arran? Reducing our carbon footprint will be vital. Is it possible to achieve a carbon neutral Arran? How do we make our voices heard at local and national political levels of power in order to highlight our concerns and commitment to change? Indeed are we even prepared to change our lifestyles and our own behaviours? We need to be more diligent about what we are consuming, in food, “belongings” and travel.
A carbon free Arran?
Democracy and accountability on the island?
I recently watched the on-line meeting of Arran Locality Partnership (ALP). How much do YOU know about it, and its apparent lack of Democratic oversight? Who are the partners and where were our elected community councillors in these discussions? Since watching it, I have asked a lot of people about it, and most have not heard of this initiative even although it has been in progress for three years. So much for inclusion of islanders in consultations and decisions about the island’s future. Where is the democratic accountability in these groups deciding on Arran’s future? What is North Ayrshire Council doing? Even the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), perhaps slightly better known, must also include more consultations, not just with health and social care staff but with their patients. For whom is the proposed centralisation of the island’s health and care services in Brodick designed? More for staff than patients? Imagine as a patient getting there from the South End without a car? It sounded more like what we have already experienced in the “non” consultation over the Brodick terminal and berthing facilities and now the Ardrossan Harbour plans being imposed by non-elected groups without any consultations or accountability to islanders or at least timely genuine consultation and not simply this is what you are going to get ! What about the financial implications?
I think we need to be much more proactive in making political will a pressure point on our politicians in Scotland, locally and nationally. There are elections next year so make sure you register your vote. North Ayrshire Council has just sent Electoral Registration letters out to every household. Sadly, they seem to not realise 20% of islanders either do not use or cannot afford electronic communication and now to have only email and website addresses for registration is to disenfranchise many people. So if you have a problem registering ring 01292-612221 and ask for assistance, even though on the last line of the back page it states this number is about the privacy notice. We will elect our MSPs. Make sure you have your vote. Then on Arran, think about standing to become an Arran Community Councillor. YOUR votes are critical to democracy in Scotland and our community deserves effective representation of our needs and desires.
www.voiceforarran.com September 2020
Featured image shows a boulder being dropped into the sea at DoggersBank. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett / Greenpeace