Task force to look at future of Scottish seas
Specialists with a broad range of interests - from fishing to marine conservation - have come together to discuss the future of legislation designed to protect Scottish seas.
Led by the Scottish Parliament, the group will be consulted on a major revision of regulations covering the marine environment in an effort to streamline over-complicate and overlapping legislation currently governing this area.
The Scottish Executive's Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said the aim of the new marine legislation is to ensure the sustainable management of Scotland's seas and coasts.
It will also attempt balance the competing interests for use and protection of the seas.
"Scotland has a unique coastal and marine environment," said Mr Lochhead.
"It provides an important natural resource upon which so many communities depend.
"In Scotland we have over 11,000 km of coastline and our waters generate millions of pounds for the economy. Wildlife enthusiasts from around the world flock to see the internationally significant species of birds, seals and dolphins that live in and around our waters.
"To protect this valuable natural resource, we must promote the sustainable use of our coasts and seas. There is a greater and growing awareness of the importance of sound management of our marine environment.
"There are currently far too many pieces of legislation regulating Scotland's waters and our new streamlined legislation will deliver better protection for the future.
"The aim, among other things, is to introduce a new system of planning for the sea, better nature conservation and improvements to licensing and regulation of the marine environment.
"I will also look to the Task Force to consider what additional powers need to be devolved to Scotland. I believe in the offshore zone - between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the shore - further devolution, especially for functions such as marine planning and nature conservation, is a much needed priority.
The first meeting of the task force will be on January 23, 2008 when the group will consider the work undertaken on marine legislation up to now and a work programme.
The detailed work of the group will be undertaken at five workshops over the following months with a final group meeting in April.
The Scottish Government will undertake a full consultation on a Marine Bill shortly thereafter.
Organisations who will participate in the task force: