Yesterday Scotland’s Marine Bill today received Royal Assent.
The Marine (Scotland) Act provides a framework which will help balance competing demands on Scotland’s seas. It introduces a duty to protect and enhance the marine environment and includes measures to help boost economic investment and growth in areas such as marine renewables. The main measures include:
* A National Marine Plan to give greater clarity to decision making in the marine environment and encourage investment.
* A simpler licensing system to cut bureaucracy and introduce efficiencies to encourage economic investment and growth.
* New powers to select and manage Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to enhance marine biodiversity and preserve historic assets.
* Much improved protection for seals, including a comprehensive licence system and tougher penalties for those who harm seals.
The powers in the Act complement the provisions of the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which created new responsibilities for Scottish Ministers on marine planning and conservation in offshore waters outside 12 nautical miles.
New conservation powers will enable Scottish Ministers to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to help support the conservation of important marine life, historic MPAs to protect historically important sites such as wrecks or national monuments, and demonstration and research MPAs, to demonstrate new methods of managing Scotland’s unique marine environment.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) will work with Marine Scotland and stakeholders on a project to consider new and existing survey data and provide advice to Scottish Ministers on where MPAs for the conservation of Scotland’s most important marine features should be designated to complete a network of MPAs.
All Scottish MPA proposals will be established using science-based selection criteria, or equivalent information on features of historical importance. However, social and economic impacts will be taken into account where two or more alternative sites equally meet the scientific criteria and when making decisions concerning the management of specific sites. As such, additional data from sea users will need to be gathered to ensure the development of an effective network of MPAs across Scotland’s seas.
Scotland’s seas generate industry worth £2.2 billion and provide 50,000 jobs in Scotland (both excluding oil and gas).
( SSACN – It should be remembered that by the governments own figures, sea angling accounts for 3,500 to 4,500 jobs – ie:: 7% to 9% of all marine related jobs.)
Scotland’s seas support approximately 6,500 species of plants and animals (44,000 if microbial species are included).
The Bill will make it an offence to kill or take any seal at any time, except under specific licence or for animal welfare reasons.
Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network – www.ssacn.org