Communities celebrate our wild seas – and a conservation hero!

By Rebecca Plant, Project Manager, Fauna & Flora International

On a scorching hot day in mid-August, I was lucky enough to take part in the inaugural Wild Seas Weekend on the shores of Loch Craignish (Ardfern, Argyll).  This community initiative was led by Seawilding, the Argyll Coast & Islands Hope Spot, Heart of Argyll Wildlife and Friends of the Sound of Jura to showcase the inspiring community action taking place in and around this beautiful spot.

During the weekend Seawilding, a local community-led marine habitat restoration project based at Loch Craignish, took enthusiastic groups of participants out on guided paddle board and snorkelling sessions, to see their ongoing oyster and seagrass restoration efforts first hand.  Members of the collaborative, community-led Argyll Coast & Islands Hope Spot, the first Mission Blue Hope Spot in Scotland, were on hand to showcase images of some of the amazing marine life present in the waters around Argyll, created during their recent artists residencies.

There were lots of activities for visitors and families, including touch tanks of local marine life courtesy of Heart of Argyll Wildlife, a full-size flapper skate model from NatureScot and arts and crafts led by community volunteers.  Later, it was a privilege to watch John Aitchison, of Argyll-based community-group Friends of the Sound of Jura be awarded the Disney Conservation Hero medal by Jenni Minto MSP, in recognition of John’s outstanding voluntary efforts for conservation.

The highlight of the day for all was an oyster release on the shores on Loch Craignish, which brought local residents, visitors, children and visiting MSPs together to cast juvenile oysters, raised to survivable size by Seawilding, into the water.  MSPs Jenni Minto and Ariane Burgess enthusiastically took part, after learning more about the work that Seawilding have been doing to reintroduce 300,000 native oysters to the loch.  The crowd were delighted to play their part in exciting community-led action for nature and the marine environment.

Everyone left the event feeling inspired by the energy and determination of small community groups who, often unfunded, work tirelessly to protect and restore the marine environment on behalf of us all.  We also witnessed first-hand the economic benefits that can come with habitat regeneration, in the form of direct and indirect employment.

FFI, together with CCN, will continue to champion local action and ensure groups like Seawilding and Friends of the Sound of Jura, as well as initiatives like the Argyll Coast & Islands Hope Spot, receive the support and recognition they deserve.

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