Glasgow & West Scotland

Marine Conservation Order for sea off south Arran

Arran Image copyright Ron Neil
Image caption The order aims to safeguard South Arran Marine Protected Area

An urgent Marine Conservation Order (MCO) is being brought in to protect a fragile underwater ecosystem off Arran.

The Scottish government said the order would protect delicate maerl beds, which are a nursery habitat for young scallops and other fish and shellfish.

The order, which comes into force on 1 October, was made after illegal fishing at South Arran Marine Protected Area.

This is the first time such powers from the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 have been used.

'Delicate habitats'

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland's network of Marine Protected Areas 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."

The MCO will have no impact on vessels that were following the voluntary arrangements for South Arran.

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