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Community of Arran Seabed Trust

Community-led action to protect the marine environment

Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran is Scotland’s first community-led Marine No Take Zone, where no fish or shellfish can be taken from the water, seabed or shore. The No Take Zone is a response to the harmful effects of a type of fishing that scrapes the seabed. This led to the collapse of the marine ecosystem around the bay.

The extent of the damage remained largely out of sight until local divers, Howard Wood and Don MacNeish, witnessed the decline and set out to take action. In 1995 they set up the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) and after 13 years of campaigning, the No Take Zone was established in 2008.

Following a second campaign, the larger South Arran Marine Protected Area was designated in 2016 which restricts seabed dredging and trawling. Since then, the marine ecosystem has started to recover, with seabed biodiversity and the abundance and size of commercial species increasing.

Habitat builders

The coast is a harsh environment due to the constant movement of water and sediment with the tides. Habitat-builders like maerl and flame shells change their environments by creating stable surfaces for marine animals and plants to live on, around and below. Unfortunately, they are easily damaged by trawling and dredging and take a long time to recover.

Wildlife underwater

The No Take Zone is surrounded by a larger Marine Protected Area where sustainable fishing, such as catching lobsters with pots and hand diving for scallops, is permitted. The protected No Take Zone acts as a nursery for marine life that spills over into the Marine Protected Area.

Wildlife above water

The wildlife we can see and hear around coastal areas tells us about the health of the marine environment under water. These are common creatures around Arran. By improving the hidden marine ecosystem under water Arran’s Marine Protected Area has also made life better for the more visible coastal wildlife.

Hidden damage

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust was able to protect the bay once the hidden damage had been made visible. Environmental problems like ocean plastic pollution can easily go unnoticed until someone raises awareness, like the ‘Blue Planet’ effect where prominent TV coverage led to public outcry. We know that harm can be caused at a distance but how can we care for the wild places we can’t see?

Photography credits

All images copyright COAST & Howard Wood.