Marine Scotland: Main Red Rocks and Longay stakeholder meeting summary - 24 November 2021

Minutes from the Marine Scotland - Red Rocks and Longay stakeholder meeting on 24 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF)
  • Scottish Environment LINK (SE LINK)
  • recreational divers
  • Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance (CIFA)
  • Ross, Sutherland, Skye and Lochalsh Fisherman’s Association (RSSLA)
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF)
  • Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
  • Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA)
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • NatureScot
  • Marine Scotland

Items and actions


  • welcome and introductions
  • background on Red Rocks and Longay MPA
  • update on latest flapper skate surveys
  • proposed extended boundary
  • next steps and consultation
  • discussion – question/comments on presentation and document provided

Marine Scotland did a quick round of introductions and gave presentation covering agenda items one to five.

Meeting notes


Questions/comments on presentation and document provided.

General clarifications

Several participants raised clarifications in relation to the extension to urgent MPA:

  • other PMF records were also found on the additional surveys for example maerl, will these be included in the protection of the site?

By default they will be protected if they fall within the boundary of the urgent MPA. There are other proposed management areas for priority marine features (PMFs) in the area but the objective of this site is to provide protection for flapper skate egg laying habitat. The process for putting in place fisheries management measures for priority PMFs and inshore marine protected areas has now restarted and will address their protection.

  • what considerations were giving to the 40m depth contour when defining the proposed boundary?

Marine Scotland confirmed they had taken into account the 40 m depth contour and the location of the eggs found and the proposed boundary was balanced between this evidence alongside general boundary setting principles (in MPA Selection Guidelines).

  • what is the plan for monitoring of the site for further evidence of adults/juveniles?

NatureScot are concentrating on preparing their final advice to Marine Scotland. However future monitoring will be considered should the site be made permanent. NatureScot are involved in wider elasmobranch research and conservation, where gaps in knowledge are being discussed.

  • how much survey happened in the wider Inner Sound and beyond the 40m depth contour ?

Further surveys have been conducted in the Inner Sound, alongside the work focussing on flapper skate egg-laying habitat which included other interests such as filling knowledge gaps. A field report will be published this year or in early January detailing the survey work. The survey work to gather further evidence on flapper skate focused on the suitable habitat type and depth known to have eggs at this location. Some deeper (and shallower) stations were surveyed in a few instances, and field work provided good coverage of the area, however the actual footprint surveyed is relatively modest and so there are still some uncertainties.

Socio-economic impacts to fisheries

One fisheries representative highlighted that they would be challenging all findings through the consultation in order to protect the fishing communities as well as the socio economic viabilities of the fisheries. Although the number and types of fisheries in the area may be limited, the impact may be significant to individuals as a result of management measures. They demand an opportunity to examine the evidence to inhibit any form of fishing activity.

Marine Scotland encourage anyone to respond to the consultation and also ask those from the fishing sector to supply Marine Scotland with any socioeconomic data so that they can be included in the relevant assessments.

Views on site extension

Fishing industry representatives had a range of views. Some gave no objection on the extension to the new boundary of the urgent MPA and were supportive of the proposal and accepting of the process and need for protection. Some fishing representatives objected to the management measures and the process of urgent MPA designation.

Other stakeholders gave no objection on the extension but commented more could be done with the precautionary basis and the boundary could cover a wider area.

Some felt that that amendments to the site boundary should be considered in tandem with management measures, with different boundaries for different marine activities.

Buffer zones

One participant highlighted that previous NatureScot advice for the site hadsuggested a larger buffer zone, which Marine Scotland did not include. They felt it did not make sense to only protect the eggs because after hatching, the juveniles are also vulnerable in the surrounding area. They therefore felt that there needed to be a large buffer area and beyond the 40 m depth contour where mobile gear is banned.

Marine Scotland recommended submitting views and comments on the proposed extension to the urgent MPA, if these had not already been submitted as requested in the meeting invite. For this urgent MPA, the main focus of protection is the egg laying habitat NatureScot added that their advice to support permanent designation is based on the MPA selection guidelines and the best scientific data available, and is still going through their formal review process. The previous precautionary boundary that was assumed was being referred to, was part of NatureScot’s advice for initial discussions last December, and was based on the evidence at that time.

Management measures and activities

Stakeholders raised concerns raised over the site and the activities which are prohibited within it, such as scallop/recreational diving and creel fishing. Stating there seems to be a blanket approach to all fishing despite impacts varying depending on the activity in question and this wasn’t logical or fair.

MS confirmed that ministers have decided to take a precautionary approach to management measures for the urgent MPA given flapper skate are a critically endangered species and these measure will also apply to the site extension.

Stakeholders were encouraged to respond to the public consultation to raise their concerns. The consultation will include the full final advice from Nature Scot and the associated assessments in relation to the permanent site. Based on the public consultation outcomes, the final advice from NatureScot and the supporting assessments ministers will decide on the level of management required for the permanent site.

Disagreement was raised on the activity of divers within the site. One view was that they may pose a low risk, but it should still be recognised as a risk whilst there were opposing views to this with stakeholders stating there was no risk.

One stakeholder sought clarification on the NatureScot activities and likelihood matrix table included in their original advice for the urgent MPA and questioned why this advice was not being taken on board by Marine Scotland. They felt that management measures do not reflect the advice and treat all activities the same, i.e. commercial diving, classified as low risk, being treated the same as dredging, high risk.

Another stakeholder highlighted that it was important to understand the likelihood of impacts as well as their potential for disturbance. They pointed out that, although creel fishing and diving are likely to have a lower impact, they are much more likely to occur.

It was also stated that dredging has taken place in that area in the past, but did not now mainly due to gear conflict. However even though management measures could impact future fishing activity they recognised the need for protection at this site. 

Marine Scotland clarified that advice had not been ignored but that ministers take a range of advice into account when making decisions, including that from NatureScot. Ministers had decided to take a precautionary approach for the urgent MPA and this would apply to the extension until ministers could take a final decision on the management needed for the permanent site.

Recreational boating

It was noted that there is no envisaged social or economic impact of measures on recreational boating, as users are very unlikely to anchor within the proposed boundary. Clarification was sought on whether this site should be publicised to recreational boaters, as discretion may afford the nursery area greater protection.

Marine Scotland confirmed that publication of the site to recreational boaters was advised to ensure that users are aware of all management measures, particularly those associated with anchorage and diving.

Marine Scotland have requested comments and feedback or supporting documentation to be submitted by 26 November.

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