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- Marine and fisheries
New regulations to protect two vital areas.
The special marine life, including the globally endangered common skate, in two areas of Scotland are in line for increased protection.
The Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPAs, which form part of a Network of 30 MPAs designated in August 2014, will benefit from new measures Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has confirmed.
Following extensive periods of consultation, the latest of which ended on 18 January, regulations to protect the two areas have been laid in the Parliament by Richard Lochhead. Further consideration is being given to the Small Isles protection measures and a new proposal will be brought forward for consultation in the summer.
This will bring the total number of sites with management measures to 16. Mr Lochhead has previously announced a number of measures to meet concerns raised by fishermen, including an environmental monitoring strategy, annual reporting on the economic impact and funding for diversification being made a priority for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
These plans are designed to improve the health of our seas, and will additionally benefit society by protecting kelp and rocky reefs which help reduce coastal erosion by dampening the effects of storms, and recovering the health of maerl beds which capture and store carbon, as well as providing safe nursery habitats other marine life, including commercially important species.
Mr Lochhead said:
"Scotland's seas are a rich and valuable natural resource, with many environmentally important habitats and species. It is right that we protect them now and for the benefit of current and future generations. The health of our seas are vitally important to ensure that society continues to derive the ecosystem services and benefits that we all enjoy.
"We have undertaken extensive consultation to ensure we strike the right balance between protecting our marine environment and ensuring the health of our seas for the future of our fishing industry. The regulations I laid yesterday for Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura reflect feedback from local coastal communities and I am confident they provide the right balance. For Small Isles I have decided to take some more time to ensure that we get that balance right.
"I have previously committed to both environmental monitoring and a study to assess any economic impact of the Marine Protected areas and both of these zones will be included within this future work. Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura will be an early focus of the environmental monitoring programme."