Scot­tish kelp dredg­ing con­tested

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

P lans for li­censed dredg­ing of kelp forests off Scot­land’s west coast have met wide­spread op­po­si­tion from en­vi­ron­men­tal and marine pro­tec­tion groups. A Scot­tish Par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee has now sup­ported a ban on tak­ing whole liv­ing kelp plants from Scot­tish wa­ters. But Scot­tish Govern­ment min­is­ters could still seek to re­move this pro­tec­tion when a bill linked to man­age­ment of coastal wa­ters is con­sid­ered by its par­lia­ment in 2019.

Small-scale har­vest­ing of kelp has been car­ried out in Scot­land for cen­turies, but pro­pos­als by Ayr­shire-based Marine Biopoly­mers Ltd (MBL) are the first for in­dus­trial-scale har­vest­ing. The com­pany wishes to ex­tract com­pounds, known as al­gi­nates, from kelp dredged from the seabed at places be­tween Lewis and Isle of Mull. The amount taken an­nu­ally would in­crease to around 30,000 tonnes af­ter five years.

Ac­cord­ing to an MBL spokesman, the com­pany’s scop­ing re­port is only the first stage of an ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion process, which will in­volve groups from com­mu­ni­ties across Scot­land. But cam­paign­ers re­main con­cerned. “Me­chan­i­cally strip­ping swaths of pris­tine kelp can­not be con­sid­ered sus­tain­able,” says Calum Dun­can of the Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety. “We would urge a com­plete re-think and lower-im­pact al­ter­na­tives.” Kenny Tay­lor FIND OUT MORE

Read the scop­ing re­port from MBL: bit.ly/scop­in­gre­port

Kelp habi­tats lock up car­bon and pro­vide shel­ter for other species.

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