This is a section taken from the Scottish parliament debate on no take zones – the effect is clearly massive.
Similar results have come from all over the world – consider something so utterly simple –
you completely ban fishing of all kinds in areas attractive to marine organisms – as a result production in those areas boom – the effects spread outwards and other areas nearby also begin to blossom. Result everyone pleased.
However the key is NO FISHING – if you begin to analyse that it comes down to money – you have a big boat, you have a lot of bills. If you cant pay them you loose your boat – however the activities of the boat have a serious effect on marine environments so naturally harvesting becomes more difficult eventually leading to a desert which benefits no one. And all to pay the bills.
Consider a large trawler which does not put down its nets unless the catch has a value of more than £20,000 – that is not in any way or sense anything other than environmental vandalism, however the number of boats in this class is massive.
This is a snip from the full Scottish parliament report initially posted on facebook by https://www.facebook.com/ourseasscotland
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame):
The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-22945, in the name of Kenneth Gibson, on establishing new no-take zones. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament congratulates everyone involved on the success of the Lamlash Bay No Take Zone (NTZ); notes that a NTZ is an area of sea and seabed from which no fish or shellfish can be taken, including from the shore area; commends what it considers the excellent work carried out by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust to protect and restore the marine environment and ultimately sustain the livelihood of those dependent on fishing and tourism; recognises the positive impact of NTZs on seabed biodiversity and the size, fertility and abundance of commercial species in adjacent areas due to overspill from healthy NTZs; acknowledges what it sees as the success of NTZs internationally, such as in New Zealand, the Isle of Man’s Ramsey Bay and the Green Zones of the Great Barrier Reef; acknowledges what it considers the importance of creating and maintaining a sustainable approach to fishing, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government to consider the establishment of new NTZs in other marine areas at risk of human overexploitation.
Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP):
I thank Scottish National Party, Labour, Green and Independent colleagues for supporting my motion to enable tonight’s debate to take place; colleagues who have stayed to listen to the debate after many delays this afternoon; and Howard Wood and Jenny Stark from the Community of Arran Seabed Trust—COAST—for their excellent briefing.
On 3 December, the Scottish Government announced the designation of 12 new special protection areas and four marine protected areas in our seas. The fact that 37 per cent of Scottish seas will now be covered by the Scottish MPA network was welcomed by environmentalists. NatureScot said that the announcement marked “significant progress” towards Scotland’s marine conservation ambitions and is a positive step towards a “nature-rich future”.
Why is that important? An estimated 3.2 billion people rely on fish for almost a fifth of their protein intake, and yet, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 90 per cent of fish stocks worldwide are either fully fished or overfished at biologically unsustainable levels. Chronic overfishing has seen a depletion in biodiversity, which in turn has led to conditions in which commercially viable fishing cannot thrive.
The Firth of Clyde provides a prime example of a place where fishing was central to the economy for centuries. Before the industrial revolution, the firth enjoyed an abundance of species: huge herring shoals attracted cod, turbot, monkfish and sharks to the area. Fishing boomed and technological advances meant that, by the 1940s, fishermen were catching more than 40,000 tons of herring annually.
Practices became more intensive and more destructive, relying increasingly on trawling to remain commercially viable. By the early 2000s, the Firth of Clyde was on the verge of becoming a “marine desert” and the entire ecosystem was in jeopardy, with nephrops now the main fishery. That decimation of the Clyde’s biodiversity, a tragedy in itself, was also devastating to Scottish fishing. Jobs were lost, boats were decommissioned and the industry is now a shadow of its former self.
MPAs are hugely important. Unfortunately, they can vary wildly in effectiveness and, alone, they will not restore and sustain marine biodiversity. The use of high-intensity fishing vessels, capable of catching hundreds of tonnes of fish a day, is not forbidden by MPAs. Although there must of course be a place for sustainable pelagic fishing, we must combat biodiversity loss.
A no-take zone is an area of sea and seabed from which no fish or shellfish can be taken, including from the shore area. The Lamlash Bay no-take zone was the first community-led marine reserve of its kind in Scotland when it was established in 2008. At a modest 2.67km2, it was the result of 13 years of campaigning by COAST, which I enthusiastically supported; it was also supported by Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment at the time, who delivered it.
Lamlash Bay was, and is, an excellent location for a no-take zone, being home to one of the largest maerl beds in Scotland. Maerl is an ideal habitat for small species, which can easily find food and hide from larger predators. However, Lamlash Bay is by no means unique in its ability to benefit from a no-take zone. All around Scotland, there are marine areas abounding in natural beauty that are at severe risk of human overexploitation.
No-take zones are by far the most effective type of MPA and they increase conservation benefits hugely. A study in biodiversity conservation at the University of Tasmania found that MPAs often fail to reach their full potential due to factors such as illegal harvesting; regulations that also allow detrimental legal fishing; and the migration of sea creatures outside boundaries because of inadequate reserve size.
MPAs are most effective when they are well enforced, upwards of 100km2 , and isolated by deep water or sand, and when they are well established, which can take years. For an MPA to be successful, a vital feature is that it either is a substantial no-take zone or contains such zones, where flora and fauna cannot be removed. Internationally, no-take zones are increasing in number, aiding both marine biodiversity and resilience to climate change.
Australia’s green zones previously made up just 5 per cent of the great barrier reef MPA, but now cover more than a third of it. Green zones have improved biodiversity and are home to a huge variety of organisms, including many rare, vulnerable and endangered species. Since the 1980s, coral trout biomass has more than doubled and the trout are larger and more abundant than those in general-use blue zones.
Evidence following tropical cyclone Hamish, which hit the reef in 2009, suggests that large, reproductively mature coral trout in green zones are also more resilient to the effects of natural disasters. Recreational activities such as boating, snorkelling and diving are allowed, but fishing and coral collecting are entirely prohibited.
Other international examples show the potential of no-take zones to restore ecosystems to a more complex and resilient state. The Palau islands’ national marine sanctuary, which covers 80 per cent of Palau’s national waters, was described at this year’s UN ocean conference as
“one of the world’s most ambitious ocean conservation initiatives”.
At 475,077km2, the fully protected area is six times Scotland’s entire land mass and nearly 178,000 times larger than Lamlash Bay’s no-take zone.
Palau’s waters host more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 400 species of hard coral. Since the sanctuary was established in 2015, regulations have been phased in to combat illegal fishing. The impact of the no-take zone was evident as early as 2017. Protected waters had twice the number of fish and five times as many predatory fish as those that were not protected. As a key food source for other predators, a healthy fish population is an excellent indication of a thriving ecosystem. The sanctuary came fully into effect on 1 January 2020. Palau is a nation of only 18,000 people, but it has big ambitions.
The Isle of Man’s Ramsey Bay was designated the island’s first marine nature reserve in October 2011, and there are now 10 designated marine reserves around the island, accounting for 10.8 per cent of Manx waters. Ramsey Bay reserve covers around 95km2, divided into zones. About half of it is highly protected, with no commercial fishing permitted. The zones are coupled with a fisheries management zone that is co-managed by the Manx Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and the Manx Fish Producers Organisation. That innovative approach means that sustainable fishing can continue around no-take zones and the commercial benefits can be enjoyed responsibly.
On Arran, I have seen at first hand the work done by COAST to combat biodiversity loss. Since the Lamlash Bay no-take zone was designated, monitoring scientists have recorded double the number of living organisms on the seabed in comparison with adjacent fished areas. Of particular success has been the recovery of commercial species such as scallops and lobsters, populations of which have increased significantly in size and abundance in the no-take zone.
A study in February found that there are nearly four times as many king scallops as there were in 2010, and the size and number of both adults and juveniles has grown. The scallops also have significantly increased fertility compared with those from outside the no-take zone and produce as many young scallops as fishing grounds that are more than 20 times larger.
Further, the population of European lobsters is quadruple the 2010 population, and the lobsters are much larger and more fertile, with the potential to produce up to 100 times more eggs than before the no-take zone was established. Those benefits are felt not only in Lamlash Bay; studies show that there is evidence of lobster spillover into surrounding areas. Just last week, almost 2 miles outside the zone, a local creel fisherman legally landed a lobster that had been tagged in the no-take zone in 2018.
Research demonstrates that COAST’s conservation efforts have been successful from a social, as well as an ecological, standpoint. A poll of more than 300 residents of and visitors to Arran showed awareness at 95.2 per cent, which is an increase of 23.5 per cent on 2011, and support was very high at 97 per cent.
Arran residents and businesses consider research undertaken in Lamlash Bay to be “very important” economically, which is unsurprising given that marine reserves enhance local fisheries and create jobs and new incomes through eco-tourism. Arran residents were also more optimistic about the health of their local seas compared with the Scottish average in a recent national poll carried out by Marine Scotland.
New MPAs are very welcome, and they are important in combating biodiversity loss. However, they do not negate the necessity of further measures.
Lamlash Bay and the international examples that I have given show the hugely positive impact that no-take zones can have on the surrounding environment, as well as on the potential for sustainable commercial fishing. I therefore urge the Government to look closely at what the Lamlash Bay no-take zone has achieved and at the excellent work done by COAST to see how that success can be replicated, with community support and engagement, in many other locations in Scotland’s waters.
Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab):
My thanks go to Kenneth Gibson for lodging the motion for debate. With or without Government acknowledgement, we are in the midst of a climate and nature emergency, and it has been my constant concern that the marine environment is neglected in the conversation.
The international examples that Kenneth Gibson highlighted are valuable. Lamlash Bay is, indeed, a shining example of community empowerment and environmentalism. Howard Wood and COAST have my utmost respect.
I found it inspirational to visit the bay with Howard several years ago. The visit was a wake-up call for me. Seeing COAST’s video of sea bed regeneration honed my commitment to the work for a sustainable future for our coastal communities, based on the need to protect and enhance our inshore marine environment.
As we will no doubt hear later in the debate, the results of the highest level of marine protection show a dramatic return of nature when exploitative and extractive activities are removed. Precious and iconic Scottish species such as pretty pink maerl beds are able to thrive. As we heard from Kenneth Gibson, juvenile fish such as cod and whiting and other small species are given protection by the lush sea bed.
It is the very withdrawal of our impact that leads to increased biodiversity and abundance, and the development of a healthier sea bed. Those benefit the fishing communities working legally around the no-take zone, as the abundance spills over and stocks are at more sustainable levels. Marine wildlife rebounds and the ocean is allowed the space and time to recharge that it is denied by commercial fishing levels in some areas.
It is senseless not to apply those lessons to the broader spatial management of our seas if we want a thriving and sustainable fishing sector. The Government is under a legal duty to properly implement MPAs and their management measures, and to apply the national marine plan duties to improve fisheries decision making.
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s report on regional marine plans will be out soon. I am sure that the minister will take careful note of that report and of how vital it is that everyone—all the sectors and the communities that are involved—works together as we shape our future—[Inaudible.].
As Open Seas pointed out in its briefing, the Government is failing to meet its duties, as proven by the leaked NatureScot report that shows losses in vital marine habitat.
In our seas, economic recovery and environmental recovery must go hand in hand. Coastal communities are on the front line when it comes to Brexit and the implications of Covid-19. Tackling those issues and the climate and nature emergencies demands a blue recovery. That is a key part of delivering a just transition for all. I stress that there must be consultation, as highlighted in some of the briefings that were sent to us before the debate.
An interconnected issue is the role of marine environments in climate mitigation. No-take zones can better protect key blue carbon habitats that sequester carbon emissions and help us meet impending and crucial emissions reductions targets.
I am pleased to support Kenneth Gibson’s motion and add Scottish Labour’s voice to the calls for more no-take zones in Scottish waters. It is time that we give those marine areas back their self-will.
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP):
I congratulate Kenneth Gibson on securing the debate today.
I was keen to speak in the debate because of my personal connection to Lamlash and the wider Firth of Clyde. As a Gourock girl, I grew up sailing on and fishing in the Clyde. For our family, Arran, and especially Lamlash, where the no-take zone is, is a place of special memories. In the 1960s, we decamped to a but and ben there every July, at the time of the Greenock fair. One of my early memories of Lamlash pier is of seeing rows of urchins, still with their spines on, which divers had caught. They would be scraped and buffed up to sell to tourists—I recall a couple of nice lavender examples on my auntie’s dressing table.
At that time, we had no appreciation of the harm that such activities caused to biodiversity. The creatures inside the sea urchin shells were scooped out and discarded. They were not considered to be good for anything, not even as bait to be used to catch haddock and whiting in nearby Brodick Bay—a summer pastime in those days, which soon disappeared with the fish.
As wasteful as diving for sea urchins might have been back in 1966, it was not nearly as destructive as what came next. In preparation for today’s debate, I learned that the Government allowed trawlers to come closer to Scottish shores in 1984. That explained a lot, because dredging is so destructive and indiscriminate in its assault of the sea bed, bashing sea urchins, tearing the limbs of starfish and leaving an underwater wasteland.
I recall far greater biodiversity in the Clyde in the 1960s and 1970s and as recently as the early 1980s, when we fished in and around Inverkip, where my father kept his boat. We went out every summer and caught predominantly cod, as well as haddock—if we were lucky—flounder and even the occasional skate. There were also sea trout near Inverkip, and until the 1980s my father caught grey mullet. Then, all the fish seemed to disappear. It did not make a lot of sense to me then, because the Clyde was getting cleaner. I know now that the only explanation is the overfishing and uncontrolled trawling that was allowed after 1984.
With the success of the no-take zone in south Arran, we see a way ahead that can perhaps take us back to the times that I remember, when the Clyde was more fertile, and the times before that when, as Kenneth Gibson said, the Clyde was abundant. I come from Gourock, which began as a herring port, but the town has not seen a herring for many a lang year.
The no-take zone was established in response to a campaign by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust and was designated in 2008 by the then Scottish National Party environment minister, Richard Lochhead. I was impressed to read that scientists who have been monitoring the area have recorded a doubling of living organisms on the seabed, compared with adjacent fished areas. The no-take zone has become a fish nursery for many important species, including cod. A report in Frontiers in Marine Science notes a remarkable turnaround in a few short years, with the number of scallops increasing between twofold and fivefold and, as Kenneth Gibson said, lobsters not only increasing in number but growing much larger.
In a short time, a small no-take zone in south Arran has improved the position for species not just in that small zone but in adjacent areas—because, obviously, fish and crustaceans do not respect boundaries. Therefore, I was surprised to hear that It is the only no-take zone in Scotland. I ask members to imagine the effects if we had many more no-take zones around our coasts. No-take zones around not the whole coast but a substantial part of it would make a huge difference.
The benefits for tourism are apparent, as anyone who has tried to book accommodation in Lamlash less than a year in advance can testify. Many more no-take zones around Scotland would benefit not just tourism but sustainable fishing, as species would be able to spawn and grow in peace. The approach is not anti-fishing; it is about establishing a sustainable fishing industry, which would be beneficial to our coastal communities.
The Government is to be congratulated on setting up the no-take zone in Arran in 2008. Let us build on that success by creating many more no-take zones and tackling the nature emergency that we face alongside the climate emergency.
Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con):
I welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of my Scottish Conservative colleagues in this important debate, which I thank Kenneth Gibson for securing. As we have heard, a no-take zone is defined as an area of sea and sea bed from which no fish or shellfish can be taken—that applies to the shore area, too. The United Kingdom has four such zones, all of which have proved successful. I will talk more about our Scottish no-take zone, but the others in the UK are in the Medway estuary, at Flamborough Head in North Yorkshire and at Lundy island off Devon.
Our Scottish no-take zone in Lamlash Bay, which was established in 2008, has gone from strength to strength, as we have heard. Researchers have found that, in the past 10 years, the size, fertility and abundance of commercial species such as lobsters and scallops have significantly increased in the zone’s boundaries. I am pleased to note that lobsters are now more than four times more abundant in the no-take zone than in adjacent areas. Sea-bed biodiversity has increased by 50 per cent, and observations from divers, fishermen and anglers indicate that the sea bed and the fish are recovering.
Howard Wood, who is the co-founder of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust, said:
“Without destructive forms of fishing, this amazing, complex seabed allows more species to inhabit, hide and feed. You can see what happens when nature is allowed to thrive.”
To his references to inhabiting, hiding and feeding I add the ability to breed. Unlike us humans, as fish grow older, they become more fertile. As they grow older and larger, many species spend more of their energy on producing eggs. That is why no-take zones can be vital to helping species to repopulate the surrounding area.
Conservationists argue that up to a quarter of all UK waters should or could be no-fish zones. There is no doubt that that would allow stocks of fish such as North Sea cod to replenish, but I doubt that such coverage would go down well with our fishermen. They always argue that, no matter how many crabs, lobster or fish are in the sea, if coastal communities cannot make a living from them, that cannot be a way forward.
As with most arguments, this is all about having a sensible balance. There is no doubt that no-take zones would be beneficial in the long run. We do not often have a win-win situation, but I genuinely think that having more no-take zones would be good not only for the environment but for our fishermen.
On balance, I definitely support having more no-take zones and I encourage the Scottish Government to begin the work to allow us to progress the principle of that. It is essential for that work to include consultation of our fishermen. We must get their buy-in for the proposals and take them with us, rather than telling them from on high what has been decided. Only by getting their support for no-take zones will we make the zones a success. That is the way forward. By taking our fishermen with us, we can have a win-win for all who are concerned.
John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green):
I, too, congratulate Kenneth Gibson on securing this important debate. I congratulate everyone who is involved in the success of the Lamlash Bay no-take zone, which the motion refers to. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust—commonly known as COAST—does excellent work to protect and restore the marine environment, which ultimately sustains the livelihoods of those who depend on fishing and tourism.
We often hear the phrase “a sea of opportunity”. I agree that a sea of opportunity awaits if we follow the no-take zones approach, but not if we allow the grab-everything approach of the reckless elements of our fishing sector. It is important that we recognise that, to have a sustainable industry, we must have a sustainable environment for that industry to work in. The evidence on the doubling of species numbers confirms that the approach that we are taking is right.
The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation has said that years of overfishing and poor management mean that future generations will inherit an asset
“that is a shadow of its former self”,
so we must all redouble our efforts to ensure that that does not happen. I wish the SCFF every success in making its case for a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s decision that affects competing interests in the Inner Sound of Skye. I agree that it is often perceived that there are competing interests, but if we all have the common interest of ensuring a vibrant marine environment, as others have said, we can make progress.
Alistair Sinclair, from the SCFF, has said:
“Creelers and trawlers are left to sort it out among themselves.”
Part of that is about gear conflict. It is not an equality of arms. As he said,
“It is inconceivable that … Scotland’s marine environment would improve if trawling expanded at the expense of creeling.”
As others have said, dredgers are destructive beyond measure. There have been investigations into six incidents of suspected illegal scallop dredging since March 2020, so the fact that we do not have an inshore fisheries bill is disappointing. However, I understand that there is common purpose among the parties in many respects.
We need to take some of the machoism out of discussions about the fishing industry. Commercial fishing is not about winning things; it is about international co-operation and the precautionary principle. Fish do not recognise international boundaries any more than they recognise the boundaries of no-take zones, but they recognise that the environment in such zones is better for them to flourish in. We have heard some of the important statistics in that regard. It is most important that we take evidence-based decisions that are supported by robust impact assessments. There must be an end to overfishing and discards.
The creation of more no-take zones would bring a lot of benefits. We have heard the argument for more marine protected areas. We need more monitoring and more robust policing, but we also need to understand the limitations of legislation and the evidential thresholds that have to be overcome. That will affect the number of successful prosecutions.
The change to the 3-mile limit in 1984 has been mentioned. The issue is about spatial management, co-operation, things being community led and the benefits for the environment and eco-tourism. No-take zones are a way of ensuring that aspects of climate breakdown are addressed positively.
I think that ours seas will flourish if we have more no-take zones. I congratulate the community at Lamlash on all its work in that regard.
The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands (Paul Wheelhouse):
I thank Kenny Gibson for lodging his motion on what is clearly an important issue to the Government, many members and their communities, such as the community on Arran. I thank all colleagues for their contributions. I particularly thank Mr Gibson, who set out the importance of fish and seafood as a source of nutrition, and some of the key findings from the monitoring of the no-take zone at Lamlash Bay. Other members shared a range of views that highlight the importance of the marine environment to our wellbeing.
Members will, of course, be aware that no-take zones are not in my portfolio. I should explain that I am covering at short notice for my colleague the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, who is on compassionate leave. Although I have very fond memories of my time as the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, I do not have the depth of current knowledge of the issues that were raised in the debate, so I apologise in advance if I am not able to respond to all of them. Where necessary, I will ensure that issues are followed up afterwards.
Through our future fisheries management strategy, we want to ensure that we fish at sustainable levels and that the right protections are in place for our marine environment, underpinned by a robust scientific evidence base and, importantly, an enforcement regime, both of which John Finnie mentioned.
We have already confirmed that, where necessary and appropriate, additional measures will be introduced, such as for the protection of vulnerable spawning and juvenile fish areas, and remote electronic monitoring for the pelagic and scallop fleets, and for other sectors of the fleet as required.
The deployment programme has fitted remote electronic monitoring, including cameras, to 30 per cent of Scottish scallop dredge vessels, which it is hoped will help with the issues that Joan McAlpine raised in relation to Inverkip. As part of our wider modernisation programme, 40 creel vessels in the Outer Hebrides inshore fisheries pilot have also been equipped with low-cost vessel tracking systems.
For the rest of my speech, I will outline some of the marine conservation successes of the past 10 years, highlight current work and take a brief look into the future.
The establishment of the Lamlash Bay no-take zone in 2008 was a ground-breaking decision by Richard Lochhead, following a long and persistent campaign by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust, known as COAST. It was a bold and laudable move that Richard Lochhead made when he was Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. I recognise COAST’s continued efforts to work with academic partners, most notably the University of York, to monitor and assess changes that have occurred over the past 12 years. That work has not only produced a substantial evidence base, but has given a lot of students a great opportunity for field work during their studies.
Kenneth Gibson described evidence that there was marine desert in the Firth of Clyde area. I understand that Marine Scotland undertook a review of the Clyde in 2012, which concluded that it was not a marine desert, but recognised that there was a need for some improvements. The situation was perhaps not as bleak as has been suggested, but there was certainly room for improvement.
As Peter Chapman mentioned, we should not forget the fishing industry, which is the often-forgotten component of the success of Lamlash Bay. I understand that there has been a high level of compliance over the past 12 years, which has helped to create the conditions that are now being reported on. That serves as a strong reminder of the need to have those who will be directly affected by management measures fully involved and engaged in decision-making processes. In that respect, I agree with what Peter Chapman said.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, 2020 was being termed as a superyear for biodiversity, with important negotiations for a new global biodiversity framework due to take place, and the United Nations climate change conference of the parties to be held in Glasgow. As members are aware, those events have been rolled forward into 2021. Joan McAlpine was absolutely right to say that there is a strong link between the nature emergency and the climate emergency; therefore, those talks in 2021 will be particularly important.
The year 2010 was also a superyear for biodiversity, in which there were three significant milestones: the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 received royal assent, creating new domestic powers and duties for marine planning, licensing and conservation; the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic—the OSPAR convention—adopted the north-east Atlantic environment strategy; and the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a global framework for biodiversity, known as the Aichi targets.
Those three things have been significant drivers of our work in the past 10 years to improve the marine environment. We now have a national marine plan, which guides sustainable development, and we have established three marine planning partnerships. We have a marine licensing system, which is designed to keep activities within environmental limits, and we have expanded the MPA network from less than 10 per cent to 37 per cent, as Kenneth Gibson noted. This year alone, we have nearly doubled the size of the network, including designating Europe’s largest marine protected area. Those measures represent a huge leap forward in a decade, of which we should all be proud.
We appreciate that we have not fully addressed and achieved all the targets from 2010. Yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform published a statement of intent on biodiversity. The statement made it clear that current projects to improve the status of biodiversity will continue and be enhanced, where possible, until a new Scottish biodiversity strategy is agreed. That is relevant to the marine environment, in which we are working to deliver fisheries management measures for the MPA network and ensuring that the most vulnerable habitats are adequately protected outside the MPA network. Progress on that has been slower than originally planned this year, due to the response to Covid-19 and the impact of European Union exit preparations; however, that important work will continue over the next few years and build on the significant stakeholder engagement that has taken place over the past decade.
The statement of intent also commits to delivering a new Scottish biodiversity strategy within 12 months of the new global framework being agreed by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021. Members will wish to note that a new OSPAR north-east Atlantic environment strategy is also expected in 2021. That means that a new course will need to be set for 2030, so that we can meet the new international targets that are expected to be agreed next year. In setting that new course, consideration can be given to the need for tools such as no-take zones, which members from across the chamber have called for, and other forms of strict protection, to achieve the outcomes that we desire.
Once again, I thank Kenneth Gibson for bringing the debate to the chamber. There have been great contributions from colleagues. Claudia Beamish mentioned maerl beds, and I know from my previous role just how important they are. She rightly identified that they are beautiful, but they also contribute to the sequestration of carbon dioxide and are therefore important in our attempts to control damaging climate change.
I thank Howard Wood and the team at COAST for their long-standing efforts to promote conservation of the marine environment. I met Howard Wood at a global climate action summit in San Francisco, and it was great to see him influence a debate at international level by taking the example of what we can achieve in Scotland, in communities such as Arran, to a global audience.
We have come a long way since 2008, and we should celebrate the progress that we have made with conservation of the marine environment. I acknowledge the importance of today’s debate. The journey is not yet complete, and we recognise that there is much still to do. Many of our successes have been down to significant amounts of stakeholder engagement and ensuring that the wide range of views and perspectives are taken into account. Although that takes time, it results in better outcomes. I hope that stakeholders will continue to engage with marine conservation issues as they have done over the past decade, so that the next decade is just as successful as the last.
Meeting closed at 19:36.