Sea Change Thinktank & Network Members
Sea Change is a group run entirely by volunteers.
We have built an ecosystem of local people contributing their expertise and talents to help protect the ecosystem in Wester Ross.
We think globally an act locally.
John McIntyre is an ecologist brought up eating by-catch fishcakes supplied by his marine scientist father. He’s got a curiosity for most things and is writing a book on how humans can become ‘sustainable’. A much abused word, but John means it in its truest sense. He seems to love maths which is lucky as none of the rest of us do. He’s also a trustee for the community owned Isle Martin and knows a lot about Naval architecture, gliders and air flows in the Amazon.
Sara Nason is a documentary film maker with sea faring ancestry. Her passion is storytelling and the environment. Born on a tropical island she travelled the world “following the drum” with her Seaforth Highlander father and mother (known for her love of Nature, particularly African birds which she wrote about). Sara also has Channel Island blood and spent much of her childhood in rock pools or with her feet dangling over the side of a boat. No surprise she loves surveying. She’s a member of Inverness Sub Aqua Club and an Ocean diver in training.
Beatrice Brinkler is otherwise known as the Seal Whisperer. If Sea Change was The Wizard of Oz and Beatrice a character within it, she would be the one supplying the heart. She has many great animal stories to tell too. Known to give up her bed to a needy animal, she’s run the Highland Wild Life Hospital in Ullapool for decades. Many an otter, puffin, seagull and seal owes Beatrice their life. Now retired she still gets calls day and night for a bird whose broken its wing, or a half dead hedgehog. She’s often seen in support of Finlay, his sister Ella and their friend Megan striking outside school to request action on Climate Change.
Donald Rice is a filmmaker and writer. His family own and manage the Dundonnell Estate which straddles Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom. With land use made up of crofting, farming, forestry and conservation interests, this area of Wester Ross is one of the ecological jewels in the North-West Highlands, as reflected in its four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Among the projects initiated by the Rice family are woodland regeneration schemes, peatland restoration, botanical surveys, paleo-climatology studies and the successful reintroduction of red squirrels.
Robyn Dutton has been fighting the creel fishermen’s corner for years as the representative for the North Minch Shellfish Association, (part of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation). She also has a magnificent boat called Goldseeker with her creel fishermen partner Scott, who helps us with surveys. She loves cats, chickens, sea mammals and Late 19C Catholic history! She does a bit of letter posting too ….
Bill Whyte wears many hats. His most important hat is as the chair of Wester Ross Area Salmon Fisheries Board. He has two other former hats – he is ex-military and also managed Gruinard Estate. He dons a Sea Change hat to represent us in Aquaculture for the Coastal Community Network and he knows a lot about it too. One of his bug bears is why we are still not using the wild fish ‘heat map’.
John Wilding is an ex-creel fishermen whose expletives over scallop dredgers inspired the idea of starting this group back in the early days. He’s been a witness to the decline of our seas over the course of the last half century and wants to do something about it. He’s often found in his shed making silver pieces studded with gems found on his travels to India. He’s one of the early prawn fishermen in the area, and used to fish for lobster and crab too. He’s a keen angler when it comes to fishing for supper and laments the loss of fish.
Julia Barton, artist is often seen collecting plastic on local beaches for her littoral sci-art project – to transform into imaginative artworks that reflect how much the sea and our coastline is suffering from our obsession with plastic. She was inspiring change across the Highlands and Islands well before Attenborough mentioned the issue of “plastic”. Her work over the years educating children in schools has had a huge impact and inspired them to challenge single-use plastic in Ullapool and the surrounding areas. She’s been a well known local figure for years using her work as a call to action on marine plastic. Julia has a studio in Coigach where she’s working on her latest litter cubes.
Brian Wilson – Is well known for a mad escapade kayaking Scotland’s coast. He then wrote Blazing Paddles – an updated edition is out soon. He is also a dry stone waller and a keen swimmer. He’s not often about because of that but he’s always ready to help with kayak trips, accommodation and wisdom from a sea farers point of view….
Bernard Planterose – Founder of Reforesting Scotland, Bernard knows a lot about trees, sea birds, timber and forestry – he builds magnificent wood houses and huts too. He always seems to be writing something and has a passion for the restoration of our uplands …Recently its been about nutrient recycling and birds eggs. Read about it in Reforesting Scotland. He’s just launched The Highlands & Islands Woodland Handbook.
Anna Maria Novak, and her ex creel fishermen partner have lived on the remote south side of Loch Broom within Annat Bay for nearly 30 years. Her partner worked with wild salmon in the 80’s before their numbers declined to the point it was no longer viable. They have a large organic garden, forestry and rough pasture as well as a bothy by the shore for paying-guests and volunteers. Like generations of crofters they collect storm washed sea weed from the shore to use as a traditional method of natural fertiliser – and take great care of their land. It has become a haven for wildlife as well as fresh food for themselves and others. They watch the loss of biodiversity in the sea with great concern and observe the plastic fishing gear and nets, in various sizes and states, which wash up relentlessly on their shoreline. They are passionate about the marine protected area and opposing more salmon farming as well as stopping the degradation of our seas by over fishing and dredging. Anna sadly passed away in 2020 but we leave her profile here, in memory of her. Her partner Chris has replaced her as a member.
Other Member-Supporters & Other Sea Protectors
Wester Ross Marine Protected Area is 600 square km and has a vast coast so it is not easy to meet regularly. But there are many member-supporters who also get to give their say, feed in to decision making, share their knowledge, or help us deliver surveys and respond to consultations, and write letters to MSPs. Amongst these are fishermen, crofters, people involved in tourism, anglers, artists and business people – with wide knowledge of the land and sea. They are a vital part of our network along the coastline as multiple perspectives help us ensure we see as holistically as possible – amongst these are Michele, Peter, Angelica, Keith, Roderick, Reuben, Adrian, Fiona, Alistair, Barry, Peter, Gary, Wendy, Chris, Veronica, Chris, Gabby, Andrew. We tend to work by email a lot as things move fast, and it is the easiest way to keep everyone informed, in the loop and able to feed in if they wish.
There are many others within the community who have helped us over the years with their knowledge and offering of encouragement – too numerous to mention.
Alasdair Hughson- Supporter-Advisor
Scallop diver and Chairman of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation and owner of Keltic Seafare – a local seafood supplier. He represents the scallop divers as well as the creel fishermen. Ali has dived in Wester Ross since he was a young boy and is a fishermen-custodian of the sea. It was Ali who dived for the evidence which led to the closure of the MPA to dredgers. When this was challenged he defended our evidence at the RACCE committee. To help us protect it he has helped Sea Change design, plan and deliver most of our surveys with Andy Jackson since the MPA began. Exciting discoveries are being made by Ali and his team of scallop divers all over Scotland as they find new priority marine features – showing just how little we still know about what is under the waves. Recently they discovered herring spawning locally. He cares deeply about the sea and leaving it for future generations. Listen to his heartfelt appeal here: The Wastelands in the Sea by a Scallop Diver
Funders who are Members
Gabby Rex: trained as an artist and worked in publishing before marrying a tea planter. She and her husband worked in Assam and later Cameroon……she owns several of the small uninhabited islands which Sea Change surveys around for maerl. She is the granddaughter of a well known naturalist and mountain climber and inherited his fascination with Nature, rivers, fishing and art. She is a member of the North and West District Salmon Fishery Board. Her knowledge of the rivers feeds in to the thinktank as well as her funding support.
Our petitions on banning scallop dredgers
Our group formed in 2014 after a petition to ban scallop dredgers from the Marine Protected Area was signed by a large cross section of local people. See reference 1 below
Social media support
We have over 1000 supporters on facebook.
Support for our surveys
In 2015 we began surveying the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area (especially for maerl). Support for any aspect of our survey from members of the community is very gratefully received. Thanks goes to those that help raise money, donate, supply accommodation, mechanical assistance, skippering, boats, moorings, guidance on logistics, feed in data, cook, build equipment, help the science reporting, or share their knowledge and their time, all of you help make our surveys happen.
All the work we do is supplied by volunteers, or paid for by the members – but we do have small amounts donated by supporters:
Funders & Donations from Supporters
WRASFB, Dundonnel Estate, Andrew Hopetoun whose family owns Horse Island in the Summer Isles. Contributions and help has also been given by Tanera. We recently received a small grant to help us publish our Marine Protected Area guide from the Coastal Community Network Fund supported by Fauna and Flora International. We have also had a Trident Rov camera donated which is tremendous. A large drive to hold all our survey footage for the whole communities use has been donated by SNH and the Community Led Monitoring Fund. Thank you to all.
The Blue Hope Alliance: Survey-partners & supporters
As our survey network grew it became obvious that we needed some way to acknowledge that our surveys were the product of lots of partnerships between members of other groups supported by people from far and wide. We needed a name for this cross sector alliance which is purely a survey alliance – so we have called it The Blue Hope Alliance. This is an expanded network and a way to pool resources so we can protect the areas together. In addition to Ali Hughson, chairman of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation and owner of Keltic Seafare ( mentioned above) – there is a whole network of divers, cameramen, marine scientists and boat operators we have worked with since the birth of the Marine Protected Area including our local dive club the Inverness Sub Aqua Club, Seasearchers and Wester Ross Area Salmon Board. Our Alliance has been expanding since to include many other groups, so we needed a new way to acknowledge a whole networks contribution.
Andy Jackson of SubSea.TV
Back in Summer of 2016 Andy was the first diver-cameraman to give up his time to help Sea Change and SCFF leader Ali Hughson work together to map habitats and species and monitor change within the Marine Protected Area. With the help of Andy our surveys showed the community what many priority marine features look like as well as their importance.
Specific focus has been on the amazing biodiversity living within maerl which is the keystone species, and a spawn and nursery ground, which the MPA was set up to recover. Through Andy’s footage we have been able to share our process of discovery and the astonishing beauty of the underwater world to help support the recovery of the MPA . He helped us set up a number of 25 meter transects on maerl in the area to create a baseline to measure change since the ban on scallop dredgers. Thanks to his great generosity we have been able to use his footage to tell our stories to enthuse others to join us in protecting the seabed – without his footage and our films this would not have been possible. Huge thanks goes to him for this as our first survey diver alongside the scallop fishermen.
Seasearch divers (and members of Inverness Sub Aqua Club and Seasearch West or Seasearch divers from all around the UK) particular thanks to George, Neil, Lynne, Pete, Hilary, David, Steve and Caroline, Rob, Frank and Mike for their great support over the years – we always have fun with you! http://www.invernessdivers.org.uk/
Frank Melvin has also been a tremendous support with his magnificent filming of our surveys and of maerl in our more recent 2018-2019 surveys. A film is yet to be produced and is work in progress….
Volunteer Marine Scientists: Owen Paisley from Seasearch West has been a truly tremendous support. Lewis Press and Graham Saunders have all given a tremendous amount of their time up to guide and help us. Between Lewis, Graham and Owen we have built a science project around documenting and monitoring maerl in the area – as well as other habitats and species we’ve been building up records of…the work is painstaking and slow so this feeds into the public domain slowly…however our blogs show some of our surveys and findings.
The North Minch Shellfish Assoc. (NMSA) Member of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation
NMSA represents creel fishermen and divers who are based in Ullapool and the small communities fringing the Wester Ross MPA who fish predominantly within that MPA.
Wester Ross Area Salmon Fisheries Board
The Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board encompasses an area of Wester Ross from the River Kanaird in the north to the Applecross river in the south. There are some twenty three catchments in an area whose coast line extends to four hundred and ninety nine kilometres.
Sea Change appreciates all the effort that goes into the surveys from the volunteer divers – filling in painfully detailed biodiversity records which help us understand what is happening in the underwater world as well as share photography and video with the wider public. Your photos and film help us show the extraordinary life within the Marine Protected Area and encourage protection so a massive thank you !
Outside of the area supporters and helpers:
SHOUT (supplied our website) Susan Taylor (helps check our blogs), Sherry Palmer (designed our magnificent logo with great care and passion for the sea ) Helen Searle (has helped with accommodation) Rob Spray Diver-cameraman (Photo used on this page)
Sharing of Knowledge
We share information with a wide network in Scotland. However we specifically share information with the Scottish Aquaculture Reform Network Scotland (SARNS) and work very closely in a united partnership with other community groups who are members of the Coastal Community Network (CCN) https://www.communitiesforseas.scot/ supported by Fauna and Flora International. (https://www.fauna-flora.org)
We are informally connected to many other groups who make up a network of committed individuals and groups around Scotland and the local community wherever our work aligns. We also have links with Universities for surveying.
If anyone would like to get involved and become a Sea Protector too please get in touch – all volunteer talent, resources, help or time. All contributions big or small are gratefully received.
Everyone is welcome.
reference 1: PETITIONS ON A BAN ON DREDGERS. In July 2014 Sea change group released a public petition to gauge the level of support for a complete ban on dredging within the Wester Ross proposed MPA. Two key areas within the MPA ran paper petitions in shops and the post office. Coigach’s electoral roll numbered about 200 people and the paper petition was signed by a total of 113 people. 93 were local residents and 19 were supporters from Scotland/UK. This amounts to around half the electoral roll in the area. (We speculate that the numbers who signed were nearly all those physically in the area at the time, as Coigach is a creel and dive fishing area) Our Ullapool areas’ paper petition received 129 signatures of which 109 were local. In addition, an online petition gauging wider support within the area and open to people outside the area closed with 1,557 supporters. Unfortunately we could not break this 1557 down by location.
WHEN THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSED ITS DRAFT MANAGEMENT ORDERS TO BAN DREDGERS COMPLETELY AFTER AN INCIDENT we wanted to boost the Governments courage to hold to this. Sea Change did a second petition specifically to let the Government know it had local support for this complete ban on dredgers – and be able to assess how many were resident s of the 1500 signatures we had received before lived locally. This fast turn around petition by Sea Change’s received 747 signatures, collected in the short period between the announcement by Marine Scotland of the drafts MCO’s and the consultation response. Various paper petitions in local shops and post office’s supporting the MPA as proposed by Marine Scotland meant the numbers locally supporting the new management orders to ban dredgers added up in total to 922. Analysis shows that 464 of the total are from IV postcodes with the vast majority of these being Wester Ross residents including Gairloch where one of our members had a paper petition. This includes a few adjacent areas i.e there are 34 from Inverness and Skye included because it is difficult to delimit an area when there is so much economic and personal connection from people living close to the border of Wester Ross, who may visit or fish here.)The creel and dive fishermen, as represented by the SCFF, also support a dredge ban in Wester Ross. We believe this is a mandate from local stakeholders – supported by two community councils whose letters were sent in support.
WORLDWIDE SUPPORT Our local petition was supported by Ocean River Institute in the USA, Rob Sinclair launched it connecting to the Scottish diaspora. ORI’s petition received 2134 additional supporters for our petition in support of the Wester Ross MPA from around the world. This was delivered to Richard Lochhead personally at the cabinet meeting in Ullapool in August 2015.