CalMac report looks Argyll’s marine economy

A CalMac ferry on crystal clear seas at the slipway on the Isle of Gigha. (Photo by Nick Adamson)
A CalMac ferry on crystal clear seas at the slipway on the Isle of Gigha. (Photo by Nick Adamson)

An independent report, commissioned by Caledonian MacBrayne, has been compiled to help grow the marine economy of Argyll and the Clyde over the next 25 years.

The report, which was co-authored and compiled by MacArthur Green environmental consultants and academic specialists at University of the West of Scotland, is intended to stimulate inter-industry and agency discussion within the scope of the National Marine Plan Focusing on three major sectors – aquaculture, transport and tourism – and covers the Clyde and Argyll Regional Marine areas.

Caledonian MacBrayne’s report sets out the opportunities and threats which could prevail within different marine sectors, as well as seeking to inspire a collaborative and positive approach, which has been welcomed by Scottish Natural Heritage. The Scottish Association for Marine Science, the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, SNH and Marine Harvest Scotland also made useful comment and additions and have been acknowledged and thanked for their input.

The National Marine Plan launched in March 2015 and is a living document, which will develop and grow. It seeks to bring together all those with an interest in Scotland’s maritime areas to create a comprehensive strategy for the long term industry and health of the seas which surround the country.

CalMac Managing Director Martin Dorchester said: “The National Marine Plan has the overall aim of optimising the long-term economic, social and environmental benefits from Scotland’s seas to local communities, and Scotland as a whole.

“As the main operator of ferry services on the west coast of Scotland with an interest and passion for the area we serve, and with resources onshore and at sea which could potentially be deployed in new and different ways – aiding with monitoring of the environment, for example - we saw an opportunity to aid the evolution of the NMP by commissioning a study that we hope will contribute to the national plan and the relevant regional plans.”

Key findings from the report include:

- In the aquaculture sector researchers highlighted the industry’s reliance on only two major products (salmon and blue mussels) and planning constraints in getting new developments approved. The study suggests raising awareness of the cleanliness of Scottish marine environment, while diversification into new products such as sea snails, sea urchins or sea weeds would make the industry more secure. Research and development into aquafeeds could help too, by reducing costs and improving nutritional value, while enhanced monitoring would provide early warning of dangerous algal and jellyfish blooms. Cultivating seaweeds has the potential to increase marine biodiversity, mitigate coastal erosion and to provide energy self-sufficiency for island communities through biogas production.

- The study found that tourism and recreation offers many opportunities for future growth, particularly in relation to sailing tourism, wildlife tourism, cruise ship tourism and adventure tourism.

However, this is likely to result in greater competition for resources, such as access to shore front or to fish stocks. More damage to the environment is also likely and growth will be hampered by a lack of provision of services, such as access to the internet, and a lack of affordable housing for local residents.

- Marine traffic is likely to increase in the Clyde and Argyll region over the next 25 years with much of the growth expected to be through the development of the cruise ship and sailing tourism sectors.

The report also suggests that in the longer term new international shipping routes may open up if the arctic ice mass reduces much further – and Clyde and Argyll are ideally placed to exploit them.

However this growth will inevitably cause problems; congestion and an increase in marine noise pollution and emissions, not to mention the need for substantial infrastructural port development to meet growing demand all seem likely.

Mr Dorchester added: “What is most striking in this report is the interdependency of the different sectors on each other and the need to work together to find solutions which take into account each other’s interests. The starting point for this is to know and understand the different challenges each group faces and I would hope that this report will start people thinking about what they can do for each other.

“From our perspective, the study reinforces our view that our geographical spread and role as the operator that moves people and goods about on the west coast for a wide variety of activities, means that while we cannot drive many of the required changes, we potentially have a key role in helping others deliver the change we all seek. Sharing these findings is the next step and I would hope that it will feed into the discussions that many are now having about the NMP and their own regional plans.”

Subject to securing the next CHFS contract and with the support of relevant stakeholders, CalMac would like to organise and chair a conference which brings all parties together to discuss the study’s findings and agree a way forward.

David MacArthur, Director of MacArthur Green said: “CalMac’s interest in the marine environment is to be welcomed and I am sure that this report will be closely studied by everyone who is passionate about the future Scottish marine environment and economy. The many competing demands for use

of the seas around the west coast are going to increase and, as an independent third party, CalMac is ideally placed to act as a facilitator going forward.”