Glasgow & West Scotland

Arran diver wins prestigious environmental award

Howard surveying the seabed Image copyright Coast

A diver from the Isle of Arran has won one of the world's most prestigious environmental awards.

Howard Wood is to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize at a ceremony in San Francisco later.

It is in recognition of his work over 20 years to protect the island's marine environment and allow it to recover.

The prize, worth $175,000 (£117,000), can be spent by the winner "to pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment".

Mr Wood was one of the founders of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (Coast) and played a key role in the campaign to set up the country's first no take zone, which prohibits fishing in part of the island's Lamlash Bay.

Mr Wood told BBC Scotland the news had come "completely out of the blue".

Image copyright Goldman Environmental Prize

Speaking before travelling to San Francisco, he said: "The work of Coast goes back to before 1995, when we could see that the seabed around Arran was being basically dredged away.

"We wanted to have a trial area to find out what happens when you close a small area to all fishing.

"It took us years to get there, but we did get there in 2008."

Since then, the no take zone has allowed the seabed to regenerate.

A recent study showed there had been an increase in the size of scallops and an increase in the number of juvenile scallops in the area.

Coast is actively promoting sustainable fishing methods such as creeling, hand diving for scallops and angling.

It has recently led a successful campaign to establish one of Scotland's first marine protected areas (MPAs).

Coast is also calling on the Scottish government to implement tougher restrictions, to ensure effective protection for the south Arran marine protected area.

Image copyright Coast
Image caption This area of seabed is recovering in a 'no take' zone

A network of MPAs was designated in Scottish waters in July 2014, but campaigners say very few statutory measures to manage the damaging effects of bottom-towed fishing have so far been implemented for these areas.

Mr Wood said: "Scotland has a legacy of vested interests controlling access to public marine resources and there is still a great deal of work to be done to overturn decades of mismanagement.

"If people really understood how Scotland's marine resources have been plundered over the years, they would be appalled."

The Scottish government has congratulated Mr Wood on his award and defended its record.

Image copyright Coast
Image caption In comparison to the recovering seabed, this is the scene of a dredged seabed.

A spokesman said: "Scotland's Marine Protected Areas network, which includes the largest MPA in the EU, helps protect and enhance our marine environment so that the rich diversity of life in the waters around Scotland, and the benefits they bring, can be enjoyed for generations to come.

"We recently consulted on potential management measures for MPAs and will shortly implement measures that take account of all views received.

"The current preferred management approach would achieve the conservation objectives of the protected features and reduce the footprint of trawling and dredging considerably."

Mr Wood is one of six winners of this year's Goldman Environmental Prize, who are drawn from Kenya, Myanmar, Haiti, Canada, Honduras and Scotland.

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