Community Association of Lochs and Sounds (CAOLAS)

Caolas Logo
Cover image © Craig Aitchison

CAOLAS (also Gaelic for ‘narrow neck of water’) stands for the Loch Sunart and Sound of Mull ‘Community Association of Lochs and Sounds’.  CAOLAS came together in 2015 following the designation of Loch Sunart and the Sound of Mull as Marine Protected Areas. It aims to raise awareness of the unique marine environment and to encourage community involvement in its protection, preservation and sustainability.

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Loch Sunart and the Sound of Mull are some of Scotland’s richest areas for marine wildlife. As well as being scenically outstanding they were designated as Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2014.

Loch Sunart was designated to protect three particular marine features, which occur in unusually large numbers in parts of this sea loch. These are: flame shell beds, organpipe worms and the northern feather star. The same area of Loch Sunart and a much larger area which includes most of the Sound of Mull, were designated to protect the Critically Endangered common skate, which was once widespread and abundant in British waters, but whose numbers have been significantly reduced by many decades of heavy fishing.

The value of our coastal waters for wildlife and recreation as well as fishing is being increasingly recognised. Discussions about the introduction of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and inspiration from other parts of Scotland – like the Isla of Arran and Fair Isle – led to more involvement from the community and the realisation that local people can contribute decisions about management of their local waters.

Since then, CAOLAS have been developing a programme of education and activities – with local and national expertise – that shows people what wonderful marine life there is in Loch Sunart and the Sound of Mull.

Encourage and promote sustainable use of local waters for recreation, fishing and other marine activities

Promote and carry out research, surveys and investigations of the local marine environment

Involve the community and raise awareness of marine issues and the related cultural heritage, to educate and involve younger members of the community

Protect and allow recovery of biodiversity and natural processes in the Sound of Mull, Loch Sunart, the seas of Scotland and the wider marine environment

Work with other community organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), statutory organisations, the Scottish Government and others, to record, promote and protect our marine environment