Scottish kelp dredging contested
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.