Kerri Whiteside, the Community Support Officer who is part-funded by BLUE, continues to make good progress in helping Scottish island and coastal communities cut through government red tape and establish marine protected areas.

Kerri has focused on three priority areas: Fair Isle, the Sound of Mull & Loch Sunart and the Wester Ross area, although she has also provided advice and support to other communities when asked.

Significant progress was made in 2015, with Fair Isle being accepted for consideration as a Demonstration and Research Reserve.

Kerri says ‘what has been exciting for me is the growing engagement of communities from around Scotland’s coastline – both where communities have actually initiated the proposed MPA themselves, and where they have not.’

‘There are also good indications to suggest that the Scottish government has actually been listening to the local community concerns – strengthening the management of MPAs to ensure they deliver the nature conservation benefits for which they were designed.’

Over recent months, there have been announcements of more thorough zonation for three MPAs which have strong community engagement behind them – South Arran, Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura and Wester Ross.

The community around Wester Ross was able to work together to successfully report a scallop dredger breaking agreements around local voluntary closed zones within their MPA; as a result Marine Scotland imposed an emergency Conservation Order banning dredging from the entire MPA for the foreseeable future.

The Fair Isle Community Association Chair, Fiona Mitchell, says Kerri’s advice, guidance and support ‘has enabled us to re-examine our proposal, to campaign/lobby more effectively and to negotiate with fishermen to further meet the demands of government departments, assessors and others. The support is genuine and committed. Kerri’s enthusiasm, expertise and ongoing input deliver confidence as we move step by step to progress our proposal and get out the other side!’

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