Scottish seas 'cleaner and warmer'
Scotland's seas are generally clean and safe, but are getting warmer and saltier, according to a new report.
Seas around the country are warming at a rate of 0.2-0.4% every ten years, researchers found, following similar trends to the wider North Sea and North Atlantic, and salinity is increasing.
Sea levels are also rising as a result of thermal expansion of the oceans and melting glacier ice, and 12% of the coastline is already subject to erosion - a problem which is likely to increase in future.
The report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, is an interim report, and is set to be followed by a more comprehensive review in 2010.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "In order to protect our seas, it is imperative we establish a greater understanding of the current state of our seas and this report is a great starting point."
He added: ""This report provides substantial evidence for the Sustainable Seas Task Force to build on when developing proposals for a new Scottish Marine Bill to effectively safeguard our waters for future generations to come."
Ian Jardine, chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, added: "We know there are challenges ahead in agreeing how best to use these resources and protect them in the face of climate change and threats from new invasive species.
"To ensure the future long term health of Scottish seas, it is essential to maintain a balance between sustainable exploitation of marine resources and the protection of wildlife and natural features.
"This important report will help us all to coordinate action for our seas."
Among the other findings are that most pollutants have reduced over the past 20 years, and Scotland's seas are home to about 40,000 species of plants and animals.
They also generate about £2.2bn of marine-industry activity, excluding oil and gas activity.
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