Illegal commercial fishing at the South Arran Marine Protected Area (MPA) has resulted in an urgent Marine Conservation Order (MCO) being brought in to protect a fragile underwater ecosystem off Arran.
This is the first time such powers from the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 have been used.
The Scottish government said the order would protect delicate maerl beds, which are a nursery habitat for young scallops and other fish and shellfish.
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland’s network of MPAs has been put in place to safeguard our most iconic marine species and habitats.
"We take the responsibility for the protection of these 30 sites extremely seriously and that is why I have made this urgent MCO for South Arran.
"Maerl beds are crucial to the biodiversity of the marine environment in this area and scientific evidence shows that dredging can destroy significant proportions of these delicate habitats in just one pass of the gear."
Mr Lochhead added: "Such activity is in breach of the voluntary agreement between Marine Scotland and the fishing industry and so it is disappointing to hear about this incident."
Unfortunately this illegal fishing epitomises many in the commercial sector’s approach – they absolutely refuse to recognise that MPAs, even one as small as this one, and voluntary arrangements are essential to the long term survival and growth of their industry – ‘exploit today – look for subsidies tomorrow’ seems to be their attitude.