Scottish Government supports ban on mechanical dredging for kelp

The Scottish Government has announced it will back proposals to ban the mechanical harvesting of kelp in Scotland’s waters.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham confirmed her support for the plan to prohibit the practice, as outlined in the Scottish Crown Estate Bill.

Ms Cunningham made the statement on Tuesday in response to Scottish Green MSP John Finnie ahead of a final debate on the Bill on Wednesday.

The proposal was initially brought after more than 10,000 people backed a petition against the practice.

An amendment made by the Scottish Green Party’s Environment spokesman Mark Ruksell MSP was approved last month.

Ms Cunningham said: “We recognise that kelp is an important part of our marine biodiversity and, having considered amendments to the Crown Estate Bill, we intend to support Mark Ruskell’s amendment, although there are some clarifications and qualifications that require to be made.

“It is our view that commercial use should not extend to power stations or commercial ports or other, similar public infrastructure being prevented from removing kelp species for maintenance or for other public interest reasons and nor should it prevent appropriate research and development.

“Removals shouldn’t be prevented where the activity is hand-cutting, which SNH have advised is sustainable, and I can say that I will consider the need for guidance or directions to managers on these issues.

“I will be announcing a review of the regulatory regime of all kelp harvesting activity up to and including farming.”

Mr Finnie said: “I am delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has indicated she will back Green plans to prohibit the mechanical harvesting of kelp by dredging.

“My constituents on the west coast have engaged in an extremely effective campaign and deserve to be commended for their great efforts in securing this change of heart by the Scottish Government.”

Mr Ruskell said: “Kelp forests are hugely important to our marine environment.

“They dampen waves, protecting coastal communities from flooding and erosion, act as a habitat for hundreds of species, and store more carbon dioxide than the rainforest.

“Greens have been working extremely hard to ensure that the practice of dredging for kelp is prohibited in legislation and I am delighted that the Scottish Government will now back my proposals to save Scotland’s kelp forests.”

Industry bosses earlier this week warned legislation banning the practice in Scotland’s waters could hit the economy by as much as £300 million.

Tom Shields, chairman of industry body Chemical Sciences Scotland, said the country risked no longer being seen as a competitive place for science-based businesses.

“Businesses need to be confident that Government regulatory processes will be upheld,” he said.

“Without that confidence, Scotland won’t be considered a competitive place to build a science-based business and we’ll lose future investment opportunities to other countries.

“Chemical and biotech businesses are capital intensive, long-term investments and companies simply can’t take the risk that Government’s regulatory procedures will be bypassed because of a campaign.”