‘Don’t take the P out of MPAs’, says protest group

The world's largest mermaid's purse - a flapper skate eggcase, found on the shore of the Sound of Jura. no_t29 flapper skate eggcase 1no

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At the first public meeting of the Friends of the Sound of Jura, held in Tayvallich on July 16, underwater photographer Mark Woombs and wildlife filmmaker John Aitchison spoke on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to a capacity audience, some of whom had come across from Jura.

The group was formed to object to a proposed 2,500-tonne salmon or rainbow trout farm at Dounie and believes the Sound of Jura is not a suitable place for fish farming.

Dounie is inside the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA, created three years ago by the Scottish Government to protect endangered flapper skate.

Mr Woombs’s outstanding photos of one of the naturally rich
areas of sea in the country, included feather stars, sea pens, spurdog shark and 500-year-old shellfish called Icelandic cyprine which are all resident inside the MPA.

Mr Aitchison described the flapper skate, which grows to three metres in length and might live for a century, remaining so faithful to their homes in the deep trenches of the sound that many never shift more than a few kilometres. Scottish Natural Heritage is concerned waste from the proposed fish farm may harm their eggs. Fish farm pesticides could also kill their crustacean prey.

Friends of the Sound of Jura point out that the Scottish Government, Argyll and Bute Council and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are legally bound to protect and enhance biodiversity and to adopt the ‘precautionary principle’ when making decisions where they lack data about possible harm. This applies to the Sound of Jura’s flapper skate and to the other rare animals potentially affected by fish farms.

The group believes the government’s policy on increasing local democracy should allow communities to decide whether they want fish farms. At present this is at odds with its policy of doubling salmon production by 2030, which has resulted in a rash of applications for farms in sites inside MPAs.

The group seeks to become more involved in marine planning issues to represent the views of its community and to link up with the growing network of other such groups on the west coast. More than 3,200 people have so far signed its petitions.