I mentioned the three-pillar approach. The wider seas pillar is all about delivering for biodiversity in marine nature conservation through wider seas measures such as inshore fisheries management but also—crucially—through regional marine planning. I am glad that you have asked the question, because it allows me to recognise that sustainable management of the sea and delivery for biodiversity are about managing all activities, including aquaculture, oil and gas development, renewables, recreational activity and so on.
Regional marine planning is the excellent opportunity that we have to do that. Obviously, we are in its early stages. We hope that it will be effectively resourced and appropriate stakeholders involved; we also hope that it is integrated with the aims of the nature conservation strategy and the biodiversity strategy to ensure that it looks practically at biodiversity protection and enhancement, too. There are lots of opportunities there. It is an important space for the kind of stakeholder collaboration that, for example, is live at the minute in the Clyde. We are committed to constructive engagement with that.
As for gaps, I have quite consciously mentioned that issue. Great bounds have been made over the past few years including 30 new nature conservation MPAs, Europe’s largest harbour porpoise SAC and consultations on 10 seabird and five offshore special protection areas. We very much welcome Roseanna Cunningham’s announcement of the historic MPA for the Iona I last week and of the demonstration and research MPA for Fair Isle at our annual conference in Edinburgh.
That brings me to Ms Beamish’s point about barriers and about being progressive and constructive. Fair Isle is an excellent example of that approach, because the proposal was supported by a whole range of stakeholders. We wish it well. We know that, among others, the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, the Fair Isle marine environment and tourism initiative—or FIMETI—and the National Trust for Scotland were involved in that.
There are different examples that I can highlight. I touched on Lamlash bay, and there has been a lot of discussion about south Arran. We think that the outcome for that site was appropriate, but the important thing is that, no matter where you are on the scale of approach or stakeholder perspective, MPA co-management is really important on the Sound of Barra, Arran, Fair Isle and wherever else. We like to see that sort of collaborative approach, and we like to be involved.
We lead on a citizens science project called seasearch, in which we have citizen scientist divers under the water finding new places. We had them in Scapa Flow, finding new records of flame shell beds, fan mussels and horse mussel beds, but they are also finding evidence of damage or decline in places. We are committed to contributing to the evidence base as well as contributing constructively and transparently to policy management discussions.