Friday, February 22, 2008

Scotland's First No Take Zone

I was really looking forward to going to Arran today. I was planning to be home late, but here I'm home at a reasonable time and the sun is still in the sky. I take it on faith that the sun is in the sky, clouds obscure it again. After boasting about all those consecutive non-rain days (10 in total), we've been walloped upside the head with a nice big windy rainstorm.

That is a bit of video taken on my old camera at about 8:30 this morning. Sorry if I was shouting, but it was very windy!

One of the reasons I was looking forward to going over to my favourite tiny island was that I wanted to find somebody to congratulate having just read the news that Lamlash Bay on the Island of Arran is to home to the first No Take Zone (NTZ) in Scotland. The steam driving this project has been generated by COAST Community of Arran Seabed Trust. Please visit their web site. It's chock full of interesting information about the new NTZ and why it is so important. I was going to phone up and see if I could get an interview with one of the members of COAST, but alas, the ferries aren't moving today.The proposed NTZ is to be on the north side of Lamlash Bay (the pretty side) while the rest of the bay will be a marine conservation area where fishing will be allowed. Diving and dredging for scallops will also be controlled. I was kind of hoping that the entire bay would be a NTZ, but then I think that about most pretty sites along the coast.

For those who don't know a NTZ is an area of the sea and seabed where nothing can be removed by commercial or recreational methods. Even DIVERS can't take anything while we're down there. I don't remove things from the sea as a personal rule, I just take photos, but I can't speak for other divers.

The first NTZ was established at Cape Rodney in New Zealand. Cape Rodney on New Zealand's North Island had become a virtual marine desert due to overfishing when the area was declared a No Take Zone. Residents and scientists watched with delight as the barren rock with only a few spikey sea urchins to populate it slowly transform into an area rich in sea life. Great kelp forests along with smaller sea weeds were able to grow as predators who were now safe themselves came and ate the urchins. Biodiversity has exploded in this and all other NTZs world wide.

Though fishermen are deprived of the harvest available in these protected areas, they are more than compensated with bigger and better catches in the areas that surround the NTZ.

Here in Scotland, years of dredging for scallops severely damages and removes living maerl from the sea bed. It is in this slow growing red algae that many sea beasties lay their eggs or where young things hide until they are big enough to fend for themselves a bit better. If maerl is not disturbed, a grand fine rich maerl bed develops with the pink living stuff on the top most layer.
This is a photo of the stuff (not my picture). It looks a bit dull, but believe me, fish and crustaceans love it. A nice big patch of maerl was discovered just off Arran. It is hoped that in years to come, this wont be just an isolated patch, it will be part of a huge healthy bed of the stuff.

For further reading on the startling results of the benefits of a NTZ read THIS article on the UK's first NTZ.

I had to phone my customers on the island to tell them I wasn't coming today(they kind of knew) and rescheduled appointments for another day in mid-May. It should be great in the spring. Maybe I'll be able to lure one of my family members along for the day.

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