Meet Scotland’s community-led MPA officers!

community-led MPA Officers

Two communities demonstrating how they can take leadership in marine protected area management are the island communities of Arran and Fair Isle, both of whom FFI has been closely supporting over the years. Earlier this month Kerri Whiteside (FFIs Scotland Project Manager) had the chance to introduce Scotland’s community-led MPA Officers to one another and catch up with how they’re getting on in 2021!

Visit COAST and FIMETI to find out more.

Lucy – Arran

community-led MPA Officers, Lucy

Lucy Kay lives on Arran and has been working since 2019 as the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST)’s MPA Project Officer.

What is the South Arran MPA designated for?

“The South Arran MPA was designated in 2014 as a Nature Conservation MPA for the conservation of a number of different seabed habitats and ‘aggregations of ocean quahog’ (the very long-lived bivalve Arctica islandica). The designated habitats are maerl beds, seagrass beds, burrowed mud, kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment, maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers and shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves.”

What does your role as the MPA Project Officer involve?

“My role is to help develop a community-led management plan for the South Arran MPA. We are fortunate that since 2016 we have had some fisheries management measures in place for the MPA through a Marine Conservation Order; these provide important protection for parts of the MPA and form a good basis from which the community can further develop its views about the future management of the area.

We want to see the seabed habitats and marine life of the MPA restored and protected and, through this, for the community to be able to realise sustained benefits from a well-manged MPA.”

What’s your hope for the future of the South Arran MPA?

“My hope is that we can achieve a community vision for the MPA that incorporates ecological, social and economic objectives for the MPA and the community.

I would like us to be able to continue to build on the foundation of survey and research that we have for the MPA and for this to continue to help inform decisions about the South Arran MPA; but also, more broadly, for this work to inform our collective understanding of how effective spatial management can help restore and improve our inshore marine environment.”

Read the story of Lamlash Bay No-Take-Zone!

Martha – Fair Isle

community-led MPA Officers, Martha

Martha Thomson hails from Fair Isle and started working as the Fair Isle Demonstration & Research MPA Officer at the end of 2020.

What has the Fair Isle MPA been designated for?

“In the 80s the over-exploitation of sand eels lead to sharp declines in seabird populations on the Isle. When the community witnessed alarming numbers of Kittiwake chicks washing up on their shores, they knew there was an environmental imbalance and that a protected area around Fair Isle would be vital in maintaining seabird populations. 

It was a long journey but in 2016 a DR MPA was designated in Fair Isle waters to demonstrate methods of marine management and research to better understand the marine environment. These include: monitoring of sea birds and other marine species; investigating factors influencing seabirds and other marine species; establishing sustainable shellfish fishery; and investigating local fish stocks.

The DR MPA also aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a community-led initiative and to coordinate a collaborative approach to establishing sustainable management of the marine environment. It seeks to demonstrate the socio-economic importance of surrounding waters in maintaining a small island population.”

What’s your role with the Fair Isle MPA?

“My role is focused on initiating a community-led partnership approach, to work with the community and wider stakeholders to develop and deliver a sustainable and dynamic research and project plan.  During 2021 I will be continuing to gather the views and aspirations of the Fair Isle community and wider stakeholders, facilitating dialogue and understanding between the two, to build a consensus and vision for the project.

Together, we will develop a research and project plan that not only increases our understanding on what’s going on in the marine environment, but also demonstrates the effectiveness of a community-led initiative.”

What are your hopes for the MPA?

“In the long term, I hope that the DR MPA will help raise the profile of Fair Isle as a unique study site, which supports research in investigating impacts on seabirds. Older generations that still live on Fair Isle speak about ‘white stacks’ (in the past, the sheer number of nesting seabirds would form white cliffs) – I hope the DR MPA would help see the return of ‘white stacks.’

It is incredibly rewarding to be working with a community that have the drive to make change and I am hoping to be able to support them in any way that I can and to deliver something that they can be proud of.”

Read the story of the Fair Isle MPA!

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