Alex Thomson’s film on Channel 4 News shows what is at stake in Wester Ross from illegal dredging, as well as how community volunteers have acted to protect the ecosystem within the Marine Protected Area. Sea Change, with the support of our partners in the citizen science alliance we have built together, have worked very hard to survey mearl. Volunteers have also collected evidence of damage on the sea floor from illegal dredging and set up a kind of ‘neighbourhood’ watch scheme ( supplying guides explaining how to capture proper evidence of illegal dredging for Marine Scotland Compliance) so we can secure the restoration of the marine environment, which we have worked so hard for.
Scallop dredging damages scallops, its own target species, as well as the fragile pink mearl beds which adult scallops like to live near – perhaps because scallop spat (baby scallops) are attracted to live mearl as a nursery habitat. See how the dredge blades cuts through the shells like a knife. Imagine this on the sea bed.
Maerl beds can date back as far as the ice age. Maerl a pink coral like seaweed is Scotland’s answer to the Great Barrier Reef in terms of its fragility and support for biodiversity. Wester Ross Marine Protected Area has some of the most extensive mearl beds in Scotland.
Dredging also damages ocean quahogs – creatures which can live up to 500 years old. That means they could have been born at the time of Mary Queen of Scots….
The skipper of the scallop dredger (which witnesses say was fishing inside the Wester Ross MPA) suggests that the 3 mile limit would result in “the highland clearances”. However pictures speak a thousand words…
Decide for yourself who is doing the clearances…
Watch the Channel 4 Film here: