Islands minster learns of COAST work on visit to Arran

Cabinet secretary Mairi Gougeon hears about the work of COAST from Howard Wood.

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The world-renowned community-led marine conservation efforts on Arran were recently highlighted to Mairi Gougeon, cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands, by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST).

COAST was delighted to receive a request from Ms Gougeon to visit the Discovery Centre, to continue discussions they had held virtually over the last couple of years. The main aim of the meeting was to promote the economic and environmental benefits of spatial management in an area where there is proper fisheries management, in addition to extensive monitoring and research in the area. COAST aimed to enthuse Ms Gougeon, and clearly demonstrate the extensive and impressive impact of the community on Arran and COAST, it’s reputations, and also inform her of their future aspirations for conserving the seas around our island further.

The efforts by the local community to achieve Scotland’s only No Take Zone (NTZ) here in Lamlash Bay, as well as the success of achieving the South Arran Marine Protected Area (MPA) has created a positive case study for spatial management. Both MPA’s and NTZ’s are mechanisms for recovery and the unique story of Arran ensures buy-in from the beginning from all stakeholders, as well as promoting community ownership.

Dr Bryce Stewart, senior lecturer and leading fisheries scientist from the University of York who has been co-ordinating the research in the NTZ and MPA for over a decade, was visiting Arran during the time of Ms Gougeon’s visit. This allowed the cabinet secretary to hear first-hand about COAST’s collaborations with research institutes, as well as learning about the evidence gathered here on Arran that shows effective spatial protection from mobile bottom fishing works in terms of recovery of a marine environment and its associated benefits.

Ms Gougeon received all evidence enthusiastically before talk turned to the education and outreach work that COAST runs. From snorkel sessions to rockpool events through to highlighting community engagement through volunteering and citizen science, COAST representatives really got the message across that COAST’s work is broad and wide-reaching. The cabinet secretary was clearly amazed to see some creatures from our seas first-hand, as she marvelled at the marine tanks in the Discovery Centre which temporarily home creatures such as squat-lobsters, crabs, starfish and scallops. Ms Gougeon, who wrote in the visitor book upon leaving the Discovery Centre: ‘Fantastic visit, thank you for the important work you do’.

Áine Purcell-Milton, COAST executive director reflected on the visit by the cabinet secretary and said: ‘ It was a beneficial experience meeting Mairi Gougeon here at the Discovery Centre. She was receptive to the ongoing work at COAST and supportive of our plans for the future; she mentioned she would be eager to be part of the launch of our new research vessel, COAST Explorer.’

Ms Gougeon also visited several other businesses on her first visit to the island.

Ms Gougeon takes a close interest in work of COAST.


Cabinet secretary Mairi Gougeon hears about the work of COAST from Howard Wood. 01_B28COAST02

Ms Gougeon takes a close interest in work of COAST. 01_b28COAST03