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Marine Life & Conservation

Habitat and fisheries decline sparks calls for coastal recovery



A new assessment reveals that carbon-rich seabed habitats are continuing to decline in the Highland and Islands region, prompting calls for urgent action by the Our Seas coalition.

According to the Scottish Marine Assessment 2020, many hectares of habitats around Scotland’s coasts have been lost in the last ten years alone. A campaign to recover the health of Scotland’s coastal seas has now gathered momentum with over 90 concerned organisations and local businesses calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action to halt and reverse the damage being done to our inshore seabeds by bottom-towed fishing gear. The coalition supports the reinstatement of an inshore limit on bottom-trawling to recover the health of Scotland’s fish populations and safeguard sustainable fisheries.

The Our Seas coalition was established in response to decades of decline in Scotland’s inshore fisheries and in particular steep declines in the spawning stock of fish such as cod and whiting on the west coast, as a result of a century-long ban on bottom-trawling within three miles of the shore being removed in 1984. In less than a year, over 90 community groups, businesses and national organisations have joined the Our Seas coalition.

The members of Our Seas coalition argue that recovery of fish populations and habitats is impossible unless the causes of those declines are addressed by the Scottish Government and that the pressures of Brexit and the covid pandemic are laying bare long-standing problems in the health of Scotland’s fisheries. The coalition is now raising further public awareness and has launched a new documentary film ‘The Limit.’

Spurdog on brittlestars – SaltwaterLifeUK

Ailsa McLellan coordinator of Our Seas said: “We have accepted the chronic decline in our fisheries for too long; now we must address the causes.This is a hidden biodiversity crisis on our doorstep, some of the habitats being lost are significant carbon sinks, they must be protected and allowed to recover. There is overwhelming evidence that coastal nursery and spawning grounds are damaged by bottom towed fishing gear, and that this has directly contributed to a decline in marine life and the historical collapse of many fish populations. These declines are the fault of ineffective fisheries management, not the fishermen. Declines cannot be reversed until the Scottish Government reintroduces spatial management and incentivises a transition away from the use of intensive fishing gears close to shore”.

Brexit and the pandemic have exposed the desperate situation for our coastal fisheries who currently have little chance to diversify. Many within the inshore fleet now rely on shellfish, when in the past they would have been able to catch a variety of fish species. Conservation need not be at the expense of jobs, there are examples at home and internationally of conservationists and fishermen working together to benefit both fisheries, communities and the environment.’’

The calls for coastal recovery, organised by the Our Seas coalition, has been further boosted by a judge’s ruling last month that the Scottish Ministers acted illegally in rejecting a proposed fisheries no-trawl pilot scheme off the coast of Skye.  The pilot was designed to provide important evidence on the ecological and economic benefits of lower impact creel fishing when compared to bottom-trawl fishing.

Dredged seabed – credit Howard Wood

In a case brought by the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF), High Court Judge Lady Poole said Ministers had not taken into account their own guidance and instructed them to “properly reconsider” the scheme.  The SCFF had claimed Marine Scotland had listened only to opposition from the trawling industry. In the face of further ministerial resistance, Lady Poole this week said she would, if necessary, order them to take action.

Alistair Philp of SCFF, which took the case said “The evidence that this Pilot will provide will greatly add to our understanding of how restricting the use bottom-towed fishing gears can have very positive economic as well as environmental benefits and I would urge the Scottish Ministers to give it the go-ahead. This could provide a template for how to sustainably manage and revive our inshore fisheries.”

The ruling follows the publication in January of an economic report by SCFF which gives a detailed account of how an inshore limit on trawl activity could add another 450 creel boats and thousands of new high quality fishing jobs.

Our Seas is currently organising a public petition which can be signed on its website

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit

Marine Life & Conservation

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Find out more about Staci-lee on Instagram and YouTube @realitycheckswithstacilee

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

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Find out more about Paul and his work at

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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