On 19th May 2017, the Loch Carron Marine Protected Area (MPA) was designated to recover the flame shell beds to a favourable condition.
The flame shell bed has been confirmed as damaged by Marine Scotland Science and Scottish Natural Heritage. Fortunately part of the bed remains intact, and a second bed was completely unaffected meaning there is a good prospect of recovery.
Update: November 2017. In accordance with Section 77(1)(b) of the Marine Scotland Act 2010, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, and Land Reform has assessed that the MPA is still required.
What is a flame shell?
Flame shells (Limaria hians) are bivalve molluscs, about 4cm long, also known as file shells.
Flame shells live mostly hidden on the seabed inside nests, which they build from shells, stones and other materials around them. Hundreds of these nests can combine to form a dense bed, raising and stabilising the seabed and making it more attractive for lots of other creatures. Flame shell reefs are good hunting grounds for young fish, and offer good attachment for scallop spat, as they settle from the plankton, and are therefore a vital part of the wider ecosystem.
The Loch Carron Urgent Marine Conservation Order (MCO) 2017 has been put in place from 20 May 2017 to prohibit the deployment and use of demersal mobile fishing gears within the Loch Carron MPA.
Please note that the Designation Order was re-made on 15 June 2017 to correct an error in the definition of the boundary. As a consequence the MCO was revoked and replaced with effect from 15 June 2017. These changes do not materially affect the scale of the MPA or the effect of the MCO.