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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 12:29 GMT
Coral reef protection plan agreed
The Darwin Mounds
The reef was discovered in 1998
A proposal to protect a unique coral reef off the north west of Scotland has been to be approved by the European Parliament.

MEPs voted in favour of a fishing ban in the seas over the Darwin Mounds, said by experts to be a vital seabed habitat.

The reef, 100 miles to the north of Cape Wrath, has been likened in importance to the Great Barrier Reef.

The mounds are said to be home to 300 different species of wildlife.

Marine biologists said they also play an important role in the undersea ecosystem.

Surveys have shown the reef is being destroyed by deep water trawling and a report by Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP Elspeth Attwooll had recommended a fishing ban.

Species such as grenadier and orange roughy are caught by continental boats.

The Scottish fishing fleet does not employ these harmful fishing techniques and so will not be prevented from fishing on and around the Darwin Mounds
Elspeth Attwooll, MEP
Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg, Ms Attwooll said: "In August last year, the European Commission adopted emergency measures to ban immediately bottom trawling in the area covering the Darwin Mounds.

"This proposal, when adopted by fisheries ministers, will permanently protect this unique marine feature.

"I am delighted that it has now been supported by the European Parliament."

Ms Attwooll said the technique over the reef - which was discovered in 1998 - was employed by French, German and Dutch crews.

She added: "The Scottish fishing fleet does not employ these harmful fishing techniques and so will not be prevented from fishing on and around the Darwin Mounds."

Scots fishermen have said they are not unduly worried by the proposals but are concerned that fisheries legislation is being used for purely environmental purposes.


SEE ALSO:
Trawler ban to protect reefs
20 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Fishing concern over coral zone
10 Feb 03  |  Scotland


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