Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:04 UK

Bill to protect marine wildlife

The plans aim to increase protection for seals

Proposed new laws to protect Scotland's marine life while safeguarding offshore jobs are being unveiled by ministers.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said current legislation needed to be simplified, while ensuring the marine environment had a sustainable future.

The Scottish Government's Marine Bill will also bring a ban on killing seals all year round.

The legislation would also set up a new marine planning system in an attempt to encourage renewable energy development.

Mr Lochhead said the bill was an "exciting milestone", adding: "Our seas support tens of thousands of jobs, generate billions of pounds for our economy, put food on our tables and are set to play an increasing role in powering our nation through wind and wave power."

'Good opportunity'

He went on: "We have listened and are now responding to demand for change by delivering a bill that will make the most of Scotland's unique coastal and marine environment without spoiling one of our most prized treasures.

"It will create a simpler regulatory system for the marine environment and allow greater local participation in marine and coastal matters."

Mr Lochhead added: "Scotland holds a quarter of Europe's total tidal and offshore wind resource and 10% of its potential in wave power, while its seas generate more than £2.2bn for the Scottish economy."

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "It is absolutely essential that fishing has a proper place in marine planning with the primary objectives of ensuring a profitable, sustainable industry that makes the best of a valuable and renewable resource off our coasts.

"If this is properly recognised in the legislation, then a good opportunity will not have been missed."

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