We have been following the news with interest ever since Scottish Natural Heritage published the list of possible new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for North West Scotland, the area we operate our Scottish wildlife tours in at Hebridean Adventures.
With our home port in Stornoway, the North East Lewis possible MPA is of particular importance to us as it is right on our doorstep. It was designated because it is the only location in Scotland where Risso's dolphins are recorded in high numbers, even maintaining a population year round. We have been working with Whale & Dolphin Conservation (WDC), passing along photographs from our tours of the dorsal fins of Risso's to help with the identification of individuals as we are lucky enough to see them on a fairly regular basis from our boat.
Risso's dolphin off the Isle of Lewis. © Paul Sharman/Hebridean Adventures
This area also happens to cover the site of a former sandeel fishery, those small, long strips of silver that are a cornerstone species for the marine ecosystem in Scotland. They feed everything from fellow fish species, to Scotland's famous puffins and other seabirds, seals, the dolphins and even whales - who'd want to be a sandeel!? Their recovery will help fuel other species therefore, including the Risso's.
Sandeel on marl - Loch Gairloch. Photograph by Graham Saunders. © SNH
This possible MPA along with some others you can see on the map at the top (and which we will look at in future blogs) are pending official designation which was expected to be received this year. We will share any future news on this once we receive it. In the meantime please download the summary leaflet below for some more information if you are interested.