Statement on recent media commentary around mechanical dredging trials
A misunderstanding has arisen following publication of papers from the 2nd seaweed review steering group, held on 27 September 2019.
The proposed work programme includes, the following possible deliverables:
- “Mechanical harvest of seaweed: Undertake desk study of species and activities identified in scenario mapping / industry consultation to inform field trials”
- “Develop and commence field trials / pilot studies”
This has been wrongly interpreted as mechanical harvesting trials of kelp are planned to start in Summer 2020. They are not. No trials have been commissioned or are planned to mechanically harvest kelp.
At the meeting, the steering group agreed that, before any desk studies or field trials of any harvest method of any species could be considered, a scenario mapping exercise should be conducted. This will ensure that the review is grounded in where the future opportunities for the seaweed sector may be but balanced with environmental considerations and of those communities and sectors who share that space. This was clearly reflected in the note of the meeting published alongside the proposed work plan (GANTT chart). The note also states: “Officials clarified … it was there to indicate, subject to scenario mapping and subsequent desk studies, where in the chronology, field studies would be likely to happen”
Only species identified through scenario mapping as having potential (taking into account socio-economic but also environmental considerations) would be subject to further scrutiny through desk studies and only after that, and if the criteria is met, could any pilot or field trials commence. The proposed work plan (GANTT chart) has been amended to reflect this.
Any trial using a vehicle or a vessel to remove a substance or an object from the seabed would still need a licence from Marine Scotland, require consultation and only granted when Ministers are satisfied the activity is carried out within environmental limits.
The scenario mapping exercise is expected to commence in January 2020 and conclude in July 2020. Deliverables, to be agreed with the successful contractor at the inception meeting in January, will include engagement with key stakeholders to inform the exercise and a presentation of results to the seaweed review steering group. Progress will also be regularly and publicly reported.