Reef species increase after scallop dredging ban

sea fan - © National Museums Northern Ireland and its licensors Colourful reef species are enjoying a population explosion as a result of a scallop dredging ban in waters off Scotland’s west coast.

New underwater surveys by the Marine Conservation Society show a marked increase in biodiversity around reefs in the Firth of Lorn, near Oban, since a scallop-dredging ban was introduced there in 2007.

Divers from volunteer group Seasearch recorded a dramatic rise in populations of the spectacularly coloured jewel anemone and northern sea fan found during the five-day survey, as well as smaller increases in the numbers of other marine species.

Rare bottom-dwelling marine species are susceptible to human disturbances such as damage and removal by heavy fishing gear, said Lawrance Ferns, marine policy and advocacy officer for Scottish Environment LINK.

The news was not all good, however. Researchers failed to find any evidence of the rare burrowing anemone Arachnanthus sarsi at two sites it had previously colonised near Eilean Dubh Beag in the 1980s, bringing calls for action on establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Mr Ferns said: “This is why it is important to establish MPAs now where we still have rare and unique species, and ensure we establish MPAs of adequate size and as part of an ecologically coherent network so they have a chance to survive for future generations.”

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals for the establishment of 33 new MPAs which include some proposed by SSACN.

More in this article on the Scotsman website.

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