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Wester Ross MPA is now protected by law




Sea Change writes from Achiltibuie across the water from Tanera Mor, Scotland:

On the 23rd of March 2016 Wester Ross MPA was ratified by Parliament and is now protected by law. This means scallop dredgers are completely banned from the whole area and trawlers are only permitted within the MPA in designated trawl areas. The MPA stretches from Rhu Coigach to Rudha Reidh, and covers all of the Summer Isles, Loch Broom, Little Loch Broom and Loch Ewe.   Creel boats and Scallop divers are still able to continue to fish throughout the MPA.  From now on, it is hoped there will be a recovery of the seabed and habitat which made this area such a rich nursery ground before the abolition of the 3 mile limit in 1984. Over time, it is hoped this will enable the regeneration of fin-fish stocks and the MPA to seed the wider area, outside the MPA boundary, too.  Wester Ross MPA is part of a network of MPA’s along the west coast, yet in itself, it is a very small area and the impact it will have on the wider ocean is uncertain.

It is therefore Sea Change’s hope that the MPA’s will turn the tide, and be a genuine shift towards caring for the whole ecosystem on which we depend.   Glasgow University working with various Marine Agencies and local marine groups intend to map the whole MPA and start a process of discovery.  Sea Change hopes to support this with citizen science as well as helping to collect data by asking local fishermen, who are interested, to share their knowledge!  We would like to build a picture of all the spawning grounds and fish nurseries in the area, both current and past. This, of course, is entirely optional to take part in. The information we collect will add to a ‘data bank’ and help plot the species and habitats across the MPA which will provide a valuable resource to measure and monitor recovery.   We hope, that over time we ourselves, and generations after us, will see the return of the abundant sea life we had before the 3 mile limit was abolished and before.  Before the 23rd of March 2016 – Sea Change Day – there was only decline. This is a moment to celebrate an historic opportunity and the first step in the slow process of recovery.


1 –Like our Sea Change facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/SeaChangeWR/

2- Help us, if you would like, by getting involved in the Sea Bed Survey. Everyone welcome. (commitment and enthusiasm required only).

3- Would any Fishermen or Sea Anglers like to share your knowledge of where the spawn and nursery grounds are? If so please get in touch! 

4 – If anyone sees any dredgers or other boats fishing in the area violating the legal boundary please call Marine Compliance 24 hour phone number below.   UKFMC is manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Call 0845 270 3990.

Contact:  Diyanne Ross diyanne@hotmail.co.uk, Brian Wilson – brian@wildlandservices.fsnet.co.uk, Sara Nason – wa.nason@scotnet.co.uk, Sue Pomeroy sueandwill@icloud.com, Wester Ross Fisheries Trust  info@wrft.org.uk or any other member you know of with information about spawning and nursery areas.

Guy Grieve

Guy Grieve

Recently, hand-caught scallops by divers (for example Guy Grieve) have entered Britain’s marketplace.  Hand-caught king scallops command higher prices in London than do the finest oysters in Boston.  The high price is partly due to hand-caught scallops tend to be less gritty than are scallops caught by a dredge with iron bar and spikes tearing across the sea floor.  Dredge-harvested scallops are slower to reach the market with delays up to two weeks. This gives the scallop flesh time to break down and have a shorter shelf life.

Hand-caught scallops are mostly worth the extra cost because it is a more ecologically friendly method.  When hand-picked by a diver there are no collateral damages to marine life or habitats.  Check out Rob’s blog for more on the battles (“bitter row’) and the domain of the king scallops of Wester Ross.

Michela Grunebaum photo

In this podcast Rob and Michela Grunebaum, ORI’s summer intern, discuss the troubles facing these ocean waters.  Sea Change, a local community group based around the shores of the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area on the North West Highlands coast of Scotland, asked the Ocean River Institute to bring non-local voices calling for more responsible regulations into their ocean stewardship place and to lend support to the intentions of the Scottish Ministry faced with industry opposition.

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