visitors in 1 year
In 1995, two Arran divers – Howard Wood and Don MacNeish – set up the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) to reverse the decline of fish stocks and the destruction of marine habitats in Arran’s seas.
The dramatic decline of commercially important fish was largely a result of inshore bottom trawling and scallop dredging, which had decimated fish stocks in the Firth of Clyde. The practice had also damaged the seafloor and maimed fragile seaweed beds and kelp forests, which are vital nursery grounds for fish and shellfish.
After 13 years of campaigning, the community succeeded in establishing Scotland’s first No Take Zone (NTZ) in Lamlash Bay, off Arran. In this small area of 2.67 km², no fishing of any sort is permitted. Further campaigning led to the legal designation of the 280 km² South Arran Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 2016. The MPA, which encompasses the NTZ, was created to protect sensitive marine features through the exclusion of scallop dredging and prawn trawling, while allowing for other, potentially more sustainable, fishing methods in various zones.
“The MPA has been one of the best things that’s happened here,” says local creel fisherman Ian Cusick. “It has kept all the dredgers out. It has proven itself over the years. The stocks have come right back – really healthy stocks.”
COAST’s success at reinvigorating the marine environment has had knock-on economic effects beyond fishing. COAST itself now employs four full-time equivalent staff members, and has two regular freelancers working for it.
In particular, Arran’s protected areas have begun to attract more visitors. As a result, in 2018, COAST opened a Discovery Centre to engage more locals and visitors in marine activities and learning. The Centre welcomed 12,137 visitors from September 2018 to the end of 2019.
Snorkellers and scuba divers are also coming to see the results of COAST’s efforts, bringing economic benefit to the island. Many dive groups visited over summer, some of them opting specifically for Arran as they had heard of the No Take Zone and wanted to explore it. The Centre itself has set up Snorkel Taster Sessions, and this summer COAST launched The Arran Snorkel Trail in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson points out that marine tourism accounts for 14% of all of Scotland’s tourism, and says the Trail will “put the island up there as a sustainable marine holiday destination.”
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