Marine Protected Area receives permanent protection for the critically endangered flapper skate
The Red Rocks and Longay Marine Protected Area (MPA), in the Inner Sound of Skye will be permanently designated from 9 February 2023 protecting a flapper skate egg-laying site of national importance from various activities. These include certain types of fishing, recreational sea angling, marine deposit sites/waste disposal, aquaculture, marine infrastructure and anchoring, amongst others. The Marine Conservation Order lists all prohibited activities.
This MPA is the largest flapper skate nursery site in Scotland with over 1000 eggs being recorded so far. Flapper skate eggs are vulnerable to disturbance and take 18 months to hatch making this a site of national importance for the conservation of the species.
Flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) were historically abundant in the North-east Atlantic and widely distributed in the seas surrounding the British Isles, however its range has reduced significantly and catch rates declined throughout the 20th century. The flapper skate now occurs largely in the northern North Sea and off Scotland’s north-west coast.
It was once thought that flapper skate and blue skate were the same species, called common skate. Flapper skate and blue skate (Dipturus batis) are now known as separate species as part of the common skate complex. Common skate are a protected feature of the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA.
The fishing vessel licence conditions states a fishing vessel must not be present within the MPA other than when travelling at a speed of greater than six knots, with some exceptions for example force majeure, adverse weather conditions or fishing for pelagic species with trawl or encircling nets. Fishing vessel license conditions will be updated to reflect the allowance of fishing vessels to be stationary or travelling under 6 knots in the Red Rocks and Longay MPA if they are fishing for scallops by hand following permanent designation.
A permit can also be acquired to allow particular activities which would otherwise be prohibited within the MPA, so long as they are for the purpose of scientific research and there is no significant risk of the particular activities hindering the achievement of the stated conservation objectives.
The public consultation on the proposal to designate Red Rocks and Longay as a permanent MPA closed in April 2022 and the public responses along with the consultation analysis have now been published.
Scottish Ministers laid the Red Rocks and Longay Marine Conservation Order 2022 in Parliament on 15 December 2022.