First public meeting of the Friends of the Sound of Jura
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Pushing for protection in MPAs
It was standing room only at a packed Tayvallich village hall recently for the Friends of the Sound of Jura first public meeting. Underwater photographer Mark Woombs and wildlife filmaker John Aitchison spoke on the subject of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to an audience from Knapdale, Ardfern, Jura and beyond.
The group was formed to object to a proposed 2500 tonne salmon or rainbow trout farm at Dounie and believes that the Sound of Jura is not a suitable place for fish farming. Dounie is inside the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA, created three years ago by the Scottish Government to protect critically endangered flapper skate.
Mark Woombs's outstanding photos of one of the most naturally rich areas of sea in the country, included feather stars, northern sea fans, sea pens, spurdog shark and 500 year-old shellfish called Icelandic cyprine; all resident inside the MPA.
John Aitchison described the flapper skate, which grows to three metres in length and might live for a century, remaining so faithful to their homes in the deep trenches of the Sound that many never shift more than a few kilometres. SNH are concerned that waste from the proposed fish farm may harm their eggs. Fish farm pesticides could also kill the crustaceans which they feed on.
The Friends of the Sound of Jura points out that the Scottish Government, Argyll and Bute Council and SEPA are legally bound to protect and enhance biodiversity, and to adopt the 'precautionary principle' when making decisions where they lack data about possible harm. This applies to the Sound of Jura's flapper skate and to the other rare and protected animals, potentially affected by fish farms.
The group emphasizes the need to look at ways to promote sustainable jobs, such as making the MPA attractive to visitors: to divers and sea anglers for instance.
It also believes that the Government's policy on increasing local democracy should allow communities to decide whether they want fish farms. At present this is at odds with its policy of doubling salmon production by 2030, which has resulted in a rash of contentious applications for farms in unsuitable sites inside MPAs. The group seeks to become more involved in marine planning issues, in order to represent the views of its community, and to link up with the growing network of other such groups on the west coast.