What does it say about us if we do nothing? Those were the words that Alistair Sinclair of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation said recently referring to the tragic loss of marine ecosystems due to dredging on an industrial scale in our inshore waters often coinciding with important nursery and spawn grounds as well as vulnerable priority marine features.
Will our politicians have the courage to do what we all know is urgent – however deep down that knowing is? Readers please open the link below to see the appeal to the First Minister and the suggestions outlined for the restoration of our seas. Sent by over 40 marine groups to the First Minister at Christmas time, it was triggered by the illegal vandalism within Protected Areas by scallop dredgers.
Just before Christmas, the call went out to all those along the coast who already shared the conviction that our seas, fisheries and ecosystems are being badly managed. We are already fishing the bottom of the food chain and by all accounts those stocks are declining at least outside protected areas.
The call was to gather in Oban to decide on the collective response to these illegal dredging incidents. Especially because they are occurring within the small percentage of sea Scotland has legally protected.
The concern was also about legal dredging too. Vast areas of the seabed (15% of inshore waters are particularly intensively dredged). Scallop divers have said that as a result of intensive dredging some parts have become wastelands – and that is before we have even mapped the species that are there properly.
The collective response was tremendous. On the 5th of December, a large group of committed people gathered from far and wide, despite the cold, dark and late night travelling… to talk. Out of this Oban meeting an astonishing number of groups began working collectively. First to write a letter to the First Minister asking for the kind of change which would halt the decline. Over 40 signed it.
A series of events triggered this response. Firstly in Wester Ross the largest flame shell bed in the world was discovered. This was unknown until a dredger legally ‘ploughed’ through it sending alarm bells ringing about what was being damaged. A few divers went to have a look. They found much more than they anticipated. A vast flame shell bed of millions of clams, the likes of which had not been found before.
Next, illegal dredging destroyed a maerl bed which had recently been where herring had chosen to spawn. It had just been a few months before this illegal dredging when scallop divers had filmed the area in huge excitement at the discovery of this vast herring spawning ground. It was 2km x 1km. Everyone had felt such high hopes for the restoration of the herring fishery. Pure blind vandalism.
A large network of people, have gathered together as a kind of linked up coastal neighbourhood watch over the last 4 years. People are connected by a common feeling that enough is enough and urgent action is needed. For it is impossible to watch the destruction of our marine ecosystems and do nothing. See for yourself with this film The Wastelands in the Sea by a Scallop Diver. If you want to help please join us and get in touch.