Candidates urged to champion Scotland’s seas

The Our Seas coalition was established in response to the ongoing degradation of Scotland’s marine habitats alongside decades of decline in Scotland’s inshore fisheries.

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Politicians from around the country will take part in a public online debate next week to set out their stall on sustainability and the marine environment.

Chaired by environmental journalist Rob Edwards, the event will enable Scottish Parliamentary candidates to share their parties’ policies and respond to questions from the public on issues such as climate change and fisheries.

Representatives of the Scottish National Party, Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Reform UK Scotland and Women For Equality Scotland are included in the line-up.

The event is organised by marine charity Open Seas on behalf of the Our Seas coalition, a group of more than 100 community groups, businesses and national organisations.

According to the Scottish Marine Assessment 2020, many hectares of habitats around Scotland’s coasts have been lost in the last 10 years alone.

These declines have been significant on the west coast where the Argyll marine region has lost more than half of its known flame shell reefs and 35 per cent of its serpulid aggregations.

Ailsa McLellan, coordinator of Our Seas, said: ‘Scotland’s inshore waters were protected by a three-mile limit on bottom trawling until 1984, its removal, plus the industrialisation of much of the fishing fleet, has resulted in a hidden biodiversity crisis on our doorsteps.

‘Bottom towed fishing gear now has legal access to over 95 per cent of our inshore waters.

‘Our coastal sea beds should be carpeted with rich habitats teaming with life, but only fragments are left, and less than five per cent are protected within the inshore Marine Protected Area network.

‘It is incumbent on politicians to examine the statistics on habitat loss, declining numbers of fishermen, and the potential capacity of our inshore habitats to absorb significant amounts of carbon, and to make decisions that benefit the majority of the Scottish people.

‘We want to hear the parties’ ideas and commitments for making this happen.’

More than 100 organisations have joined the coalition which supports the reinstatement of an inshore limit on bottom-trawling to recover the health of Scotland’s marine ecosystems and safeguard sustainable fisheries.

Phil Taylor, head of policy at Open Seas, added: ‘The political challenge is how to incentivise a transition away from unsustainable uses of Scotland’s seas and kickstart a blue recovery.

‘We hope these hustings provide an opportunity to learn about the positions of our political parties in relation to marine and environmental issues and help make informed voting decisions.’

Our Seas has a public petition asking for changes in fisheries management to allow the recovery of seabed habitats which can be signed on its website: https://www.ourseas.scot

The Our Seas ‘Marine Hustings’ will be held online, 7pm – 8.30pm BST on April 8  and will be live streamed on the YouTube Our Seas channel. To get involved sign up at http://bit.ly/marine-hustings-SP21 .