New laws proposed to protect Scottish seas

Consultation has opened on Scotland's first Marine Bill aimed at protecting the seas while allowing industries dependent on them to grow.

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead launched the Sustainable Seas for All consultation on the shores of Cromarty Frith, near Inverness earlier this month.

He said: “Scotland’s seas are special. In the 21st century, we need to ensure that we have arrangements in place to provide a sustainable future for our marine environment and the many industries that depend on productive and healthy seas.

“Striking the right balance between the long-term viability and growth of all these industries and the enhanced protection of our special marine environment is at the heart of our proposed Bill.”

Proposals in the Bill include better conservation to protect marine wildlife, and new systems to boost investment in areas such as renewable energy.

Scotland has 25% of Europe’s total tidal and offshore wind resource and 10% of its potential in wave power, Mr Lochhead pointed out.

The proposed bill also includes measures to shore up the future for Scotland’s traditional and new marine industries and the creation of Marine Scotland – combining existing organisations to “champion” the seas.

Scottish waters are said to be among the most biologically productive in the world with 40,000 species and internationally important seabird and mammal populations.

But, the Scottish government also deems them a “major asset” as they generate some £2.2bn for the economy and many coastal communities depend on them for their livelihoods.

Fishing and fish farming together account for 60% of all food exports with a value of £422m.

“We have huge potential to increase economic growth from our seas but need to do so in a sustainable way,” said Mr Lochhead as he outlined the proposals.

He urged people to give their views on the plans to “help us produce legislation that will secure and protect our seas for generations to come”.

“With increasing and competing demands being made on our seas it is time to modernise and streamline the management of our marine environment,” he added.

“By introducing Scotland’s first Marine Bill we hope to do just that.”

The consultation, which closes on October 6, can be viewed here.

David Gibbs

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