Members’ Debate on Establishing More No Take Zones

A report from local MSP Kenneth Gibson

On 15 December, I was privileged to lead a parliamentary debate on the success of ‘No Take’ Zones (NTZ) and how they protect Scotland’s precious marine life. This was my second Member’s debate since the chamber reopened in September.

On 08 September my debate on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) was the first Member’s Business following reopening.

Lamlash Bay is home to Scotland’s only NTZ, an area of sea and seabed from which no fish or shellfish can be taken. Since it was designated in 2008, scientists monitoring the area have recorded double the number of living organisms on the seabed compared to adjacent fished areas.

Of particular success has been seen regarding the recovery of commercial species such as scallops and lobsters, with populations of both having increased significantly in size and abundance.

I opened the debate by emphasising how Lamlash Bay has stimulated the regeneration of marine life. The NTZ was established in 2008 after the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) made an energetic and compelling case to the SNP Government to introduce the first and, so far, only one in Scotland, to regenerate and protect the bay’s despoiled marine environment.

I gave examples of other successes from the Palau Islands in the Pacific, to the Isle of Man.

All around Scotland we are fortunate to have fantastically diverse populations of molluscs, crustaceans and fish. Many of these live at or near the shore and we must do all we can do protect them from over-fishing and disturbing of the seabed. By doing so we can boost marine tourism while allowing greater diversity in flourishing marine environment. Ultimately, this can only help the fishing industry too, as abundant marine life spills over into adjacent areas – a ‘win-win’ situation.

On 03 December, the Scottish Government announced the designation of 12 new Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in our seas. The announcement means that 37% of Scottish seas will now be covered by the Scottish MPA network and was welcomed by environmental activists. NatureScot said the announcement marked “significant progress” towards Scotland’s marine conservation ambition and was a positive step towards a “nature-rich future.”

This announcement is of course extremely welcome. MPAs are an important tool in our arsenal for combatting biodiversity loss. However, they do not negate the necessity for further measures.

Lamlash Bay shows the hugely positive impact that well established, well enforced NTZ can have on the surrounding environment, as well as the potential for sustainable commercial fishing and I have encouraged fellow MSPs with coastal communities to speak to them about establishing NTZs in their areas.

Featured image shows an octopus in the No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay. Photo credit: Arran Sealife