Coastal communities turning the tide
As Fiona Gell recently wrote in The Guardian, it is ordinary people who are driving the future of conservation, the government is recognising this, and starting to listen to what coastal communities have to say.
SEPA’s CEO Terry A'Hearn and Aquaculture Specialist Mike Montague accepted our public invitation on social media to visit COAST this month. During a full day of discussion there were many straight questions from members of our community about SEPA's regulatory role and the proposed expansion of Lamlash Bay Salmon Farm. Terry later stated: "Great day with community members. Loved their enthusiasm, knowledge and determination to build a better future for their island. Has improved my understanding of community views re fish farming. A great day!". He was clear to all present that the salmon aquaculture industry needs to improve, that compliance is non-negotiable, and that SEPA expects to be held to account as an effective regulator.
Many Scottish people and communities have been making an extraordinary difference to the protection of our seas during these past two months. Here are just a few examples:
- The BLOOM-led campaign has brought together fishing and many other organisations and has stopped the EU from allowing more electric trawling.
- Communities of divers are proving to be highly effective for compliance in protected areas, raising the alarm as they did recently when illegal scallop dredging was taking place in the Firth of Lorne, leading to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation condemning this practice.
- Unprecedented media attention and government/ business action is being taken on plastic pollution thanks to the longstanding work of organisations like the MCS or FIDRA, fired up by school children like those from Sunnyside Primary and the eXXpedition sailors and activists.
- Many West Coast communities like ours are now represented through the new Salmon Aquaculture Reform Network Scotland (SARNS). Please sign our petition: “Time to clean up Scotland's Salmon Farming Industry” if you are concerned about the environmental impacts of open pen salmon farming.
- Another example of change was the powerful intervention at Parliament of Planet Earth II filmmaker and writer John Aitchison, from the Friends of the Sound of Jura community. He was called to give evidence at the government inquiry into the environmental impacts of open pen salmon farming.
We will keep trying to balance the strong influence that powerful industrial lobbies have on some Scottish MSPs. “Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors” says the African proverb and coastal communities, governmental bodies, environmental NGOs, universities and sustainable sectors of industry continue to work and learn together while navigating the stormy sea of marine management.