Abandoned plans to protect Scottish waters leave whales and dolphins vulnerable

Conservation news


Since ORCA very readily applauds measures that are introduced to protect marine wildlife and habitat, it's perhaps no surprise that we express dismay when existing or promised plans are either watered down, indefinitely postponed or scrapped altogether. There have been a series of wider disappointments recently about animal welfare measures promised by the UK Government not materialising, and last week we learned that plans by the Scottish Parliament to create Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) to protect 10% of Scotland’s marine waters by 2026 were being indefinitely shelved. Instead a rather vague promise to make Scotland “nature-positive” by 2030 is being held out as a second-rate replacement.

The finger of blame is being pointed at the Scottish Government for not doing enough to consult and engage with fishing communities and the wider industry that were set to be affected by the plans. However an official survey revealed that protecting Scotland’s marine areas was an important consideration for 85% of the wider public. So as is often the case, it’s who shouts loudest that gets heard, versus science, evidence and public opinion.

It's frustrating that at the point in time when such an extraordinary diversity of whale, dolphin and porpoise species are being spotted in Scottish waters, that the authorities turn their back on measures which would have safeguarded their presence. The world over, an uneasy tension exists between marine conservation and fishing, and too often business wins out.

This is why ORCAs work is so important. Despite their u-turn, the Scottish Government has said that doing nothing is not an option. The evidence we so painstakingly collect is a continuous reminder that while we may not have the voice that others do, we will never stop making the arguments and will never settle for anything that leaves our precious marine wildlife vulnerable or in second-place to vested interests.