In 2019, four Argyll-based community groups, working collaboratively, successfully achieved the designation of the first Mission Blue Hope Spot in Scotland, and the mainland UK. The Argyll Coast and Islands Hope Spot joins an impressive and growing number around the world. Collectively, Hope Spots (based around Marine Protected Areas) aim to help local communities to protect and restore marine biodiversity on a local, regional, national and international scale.
The Hope Spot covers a large expanse of Argyll’s waters, from Ardnamurchan to almost the southern end of the Isle of Jura. The combination of economic, cultural and environmental values represented in this area demonstrates the vital connection between coastal communities and their local waters. It is one of the most marine biologically diverse environments in Scotland and the UK. It is no coincidence that this special environment is one of the few remaining global strongholds for the critically endangered flapper skate, Dipturus intermedius and is the only place in the world where they are protected by an MPA. This vulnerable ecosystem, also hosts a number of Priority Marine Features including serpulid reefs, maerl beds, flame shells and harbour porpoise. While some areas within the Hope Spot are closed to mobile fishing, illegal trawling and scallop dredging still persist, so the skate are vulnerable to by-catch, and to significant disruption of the areas in which they feed and breed. In addition, the seabed faces ongoing damage which prevents it from recovering.
The Hope Spot offers a vehicle to combat these threats and to deliver a biologically diverse future championed by the local communities around it. The team have lots of ideas and plans but, as it is made up entirely of volunteers, it is constrained by a lack of time and capacity. Funds for a part-time coordinator will unlock multiple activities and benefits (including further co-financing) and enable the team to drive forward the Hope Spot’s aims for conservation and community education during 2021 (Scotland’s re-scheduled “Year of Coasts and Waters”).