Sarah spreads the word on the benefits of seagrass

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Sarah Fanet, SNP candidate at the by-election in Fort William and Ardnamurchan.

As Scotland waves goodbye to COP26, Sarah Fanet, SNP candidate in the Fort William and Ardnamurchan by-election, shares her thoughts as a diver on an incredible tool to tackle climate change.

We need scuba divers in politics.

The seabed represents 40 per cent of the Scottish land but only one per cent of the population gets to see it.

One of Sarah’s underwater pictures.

I have recently had the privilege to be the curator of the Twitter-based group Highlands and Islands Voices. Having been a scuba diver most of my life I decided to share underwater pictures taken on the west coast of Scotland, many in the sea lochs of Lochaber.

The feedback was immediate, with followers expressing amazement at the colours of the sea life and the clear water.

I am privileged to be able to see this diverse Scottish marine environment on our doorstep.

Sadly, its rich habitats and its biodiversity remain invisible to most of us. It is easier to harm what you cannot see and our marine environment does not receive the publicity it deserves.

Recreational divers have revealed to communities and governments the harm caused by
humans underwater.

It was divers who sounded the alarm bell when they shared images of the dredged seabed of Arran and Loch Carron which had caused a massive decline in the fish population and hurt local fishing communities. This led to positive action and both lochs were turned into Marine Protected Areas.

There should be more mention of an incredible tool against climate change – seagrass. Seagrass has the ability to sequester carbon up to 35 times faster than the rain forest but sadly 90 per cent of seagrass has disappeared from our waters over the last 100 years because of human activity.

There is a project in Loch Craignish in Argyll and Bute, run by Seawilding, a charity working with coastal communities to restore degraded inshore marine habitats. A one-mile-long meadow of Zostera Marina can be seen in shallow water. That giant patch of seagrass has been restored by residents and their families, snorkellers and divers.

The seagrass now needs to spread. With thousands of kilometres of coastline, the Highlands and Islands has a lot to offer for the seagrass to be restored and Lochaber is not short of sites and communities, particularly with its stunningly beautiful sea lochs.

It could benefit biodiversity, local communities and their fisheries. It could create jobs
and recreational activities and make Lochaber part of the world fight against climate change.

I visited the site of Loch Craignish in September to see for myself. I immediately noticed the abundance of marine life and the fun it can bring to the community.

Let’s spread the seagrass along our shores. Let’s help people see what’s under the surface of our sea. This is a great opportunity to involve people in Lochaber in recreational marine activities such as snorkelling. I have found snorkelling in lochs the best escape to boost my mental health during the pandemic.

The seabed is 40 per cent of Scotland’s land. Let’s give it the attention it deserves. Bring the seagrass to Lochaber.

Visit www.seawilding.org for more information.