Loch Carron reef ‘biggest of its kind’

Loch Flameshell
Flameshell image © Mark Woombs

A rare marine feature wrecked by a dredging boat, the Loch Carron flame shell bed, has been identified as the biggest known reef of its kind.

Divers have estimated that about 250 million flame shells exist on the bed of Loch Carron in Wester Ross. Ministers will now seek to make the emergency measures put in place to protect the reef permanent.

In April, a scallop dredger dragged its gear through the reef on two occasions causing damage from which it is likely to take decades to recover. Fishing on Loch Carron was immediately banned and divers have been assessing the size of the reef.

They have discovered it is two-and-a-half times larger than a similar feature in Loch Alsh, previously thought to be the biggest.


Fishermen have urged caution on the widespread use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which prevent them operating in sensitive areas.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is an astonishing find and I think that we would be completely remiss not to take notice of it and to do what we can to protect it.

“The measures that get put in place for MPAs we put in place in consultation with the fishermen to make sure they are reasonable and appropriate.”

Dredging involves towing gear across the seabed to scrape-up the scallops which live there. They can also be caught in smaller numbers by divers. The dredger which damaged the Loch Carron reef was operating legally because no protection measures existed at the time.

Flame Shells

Nick Underdown, from Open Seas, said: “Flame shells are highly sensitive to damaging fishing activities like scallop dredging and prawn trawling. It just does not make sense to tow across these fragile habitats.”

Fishermen’s groups have distanced themselves from the skipper’s actions, saying he did not belong to any industry organisation.

Bertie Armstrong, from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), said: “The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is foursquare behind environmental protection. We are working closely with Marine Scotland on the identification, designation and management measures for the MPA network seeking a balance with sustainable economic activity.

Read the full article at BBC News.

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