I’m reluctant to pack up our field equipment, leave the Minch behind and head back to Edinburgh. But the time, yet again, has come. This immediate battle has been won (well, maybe not won as Joint Warrior will return in April 2010, but the exercise didn’t enter the Moray Firth this time, that has to be considered a minor victory doesn’t it?!? A big, big thank you to everyone who had a role in this victory, you know who you are!)
Joint Warrior might be over for now, but there are other threats and issues that these animals have to deal with in their daily lives – new and old industries expanding, prey species being fished out, spills occurring, rubbish being dumped and marine habitats of numerous mysterious and beautiful species being destroyed. Something needs to be done now – and something is.
It’s the final countdown to a strong Marine (Scotland) Act in 2010. There has never been a more exciting time for marine wildlife and marine wildlife fans alike. Holyrood is currently considering marine legislation for Scotland’s seas – with nature conservation out to 200 nm – for the first time ever. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our government to get protection of Scottish seas right.
We are very excited about the pending legislation, but there’s a way to go yet before we can be proud and can feel confident that we are protecting our marine environment. The Marine (Scotland) Bill Stage 1 Report was recently released by the Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs Committee and it needs some work!
RECOVERY - We need a duty on Scottish Ministers to improve the health of Scotland’s seas, and targets towards recovery. Our seas were once teaming with marine species and we need to recover them to historic levels, securing their future for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
MARINE PROTECTED AREAS – We need a duty on Scottish Ministers to create an ecologically-coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. Without such areas, and monitoring and management, we can not meet our international commitments to protect marine species efficiently and effectively.
FISHERIES – We need integration between the Marine (Scotland) Bill and fisheries legislation to help deliver restoration of Scotland’s marine environment. Whales and dolphins, as well as fisheries will all benefit from healthier seas!
SEALS - Last, but by no means least, we have been lucky enough to see seals in our study area on most survey days since we arrived and I can not believe that seals are still being shot around Scotland’s coasts. We support Advocates for Animals’ in their concern about the killing of seals during their breeding seasons. Stopping this will bring to an end the suffering of countless orphaned seal pups left to starve to death on Scotland’s beaches each year. Advocates for Animals have produced a new short film, Bonnie's Tale, narrated by Richard Briers, which you can watch at www.lookoutforseals.org. The more people that watch the film and sign Advocates online pledge, the greater the chance that the Scottish Government will better protect these beautiful and defenceless creatures, and introduce a ban on the killing of seals, or at the very least a cessation during the breeding season.