The National Trust for Scotland have called for improved Marine Protected Areas to preserve sea life along some of the most extensive coastlines in Europe.
The charity outlined proposals for strengthening Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and supporting coastal communities and economies in Scotland in a new manifesto published ahead of the Holyrood election on May 6.
Currently 37% of Scotland’s seas are designated as Marine Protected Areas, in which marine wildlife, habitats, geology, and cultural heritage are protected, by the Scottish Government.
The manifesto read: “An effective MPA network is a magnet for tourism.
“They are nursery grounds for commercial fish species and allow the repopulation of neighbouring fisheries.
“The resulting higher biomass of plants and animals contributes to carbon storage.
“Long-term conservation and recovery of our marine environment will benefit people as well as nature and our environment: coastal communities thrive alongside healthy seas.”
Diarmid Hearns, Head of Public Policy at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Scotland has one of the most extensive coastlines in Europe, with a myriad of islands, and communities with an age-old relationship with the sea.
“As we aspire to meet the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, better management of our marine environment is as important as meeting these challenges on land.
“We are now increasingly aware of how human activities can degrade our marine environment.
“We also now better understand what the consequences of this are, including the loss of fish stocks, the release of greenhouse gases, and the loss of some of the planet’s most amazing creatures.
“If we allow our seas to be exploited and damaged, we are risking not only the loss of our amazing marine life and habitats but also damaging our tourism and fisheries economies and the health of Scotland’s people.”
The manifesto called for a complete review of Marine Priority Features, which are habitats and species that are considered to be marine nature conservation priorities in Scottish waters.