Lamlash bay is an excellent example of the Scottish Government working with a local coastal community—building on the voluntary no-take zone by incorporating it into the south Arran marine protected area—to support the recovery of the maerl beds in the bay.
Since designation, commercially important species such as the king scallop and European lobster have increased in size, age and density. We have continued that approach to MPA designation and management, and we are currently working with coastal communities to develop fisheries management measures for the rest of the MPA network.
The Arran no-take zone has seen tourism grow while scallop and lobster numbers have increased four-fold. Given that economic success, how does the Government plan to continue to work with the Community of Arran Seabed Trust—COAST—to collect further data on the impact of that internationally recognised no-take zone?
Our monitoring strategy sets out how we intend to monitor MPAs and how we will continue to monitor the related surveys that we do. Many partners, including NatureScot, are involved in that work; we work with them to gather the evidence and to assess the overall condition of the sites.
NatureScot has recently launched a community-led biodiversity monitoring project to try to support community groups and individuals who want to participate in the monitoring of our marine protected areas.
COAST has provided a lot of valuable evidence to NatureScot and the Scottish Government about the seas around Arran, which we very much appreciate.
In another no-take zone—Broad bay—we know that marine biodiversity is almost non-existent. Leaning on evidence from one example such as Lamlash bay while ignoring another is no way to go about policy making. Furthermore, more work needs to be done to establish the effectiveness of the current MPA network.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that we should not rush into imposing new, un-evidenced marine protections simply to appease the Government’s Green coalition partners and that we should, instead, seek to understand the protections that already exist?—[
We will, of course, consider the examples that the member has raised, as well as other examples that we know exist across the world, when we look to develop that work.
It is important to remember that we have carried out a consultation, which I believe received more than 4,000 responses. It is vital that we fully consider each of those responses. I know that a lot of feeling exists around this subject and that other organisations have expressed concern. We want to listen to those points of view in a careful and considered way before setting up further steps from that point.
The Scottish Government adopted a national marine plan in 2015 to develop a planning system for our seas, in which no-take zones play a part, but the recent Open Seas report, “Ease the Squeeze: Ocean Recovery in Busier Seas”, highlights the Government’s failure to comply with that plan. Therefore, will the Scottish Government commit to creating a cohesive spatial plan for our seas, with community consultation, engagement and development at its core?
I thank the member for raising that point. She will be aware that we are in the process of updating and bringing forward a new national marine plan, which I am sure that she will engage with. I am happy to write to her to provide further information and any indicative timelines for that.