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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Positive waves over marine park
A cushion star - image courtesy of Scottish Natural Heritage
The new park would promote and protect Scotland's marine wildlife
Scotland's environment minister has welcomed the latest step towards creating a national marine park.

Scottish Natural Heritage identified five preferred locations, including parts of Argyll, Wester Ross, Skye, the Outer Hebrides and the Solway Firth.

Ross Finnie said the country's coastal waters were "valuable national assets" which should be promoted.

SNH said more than half the country's coastline would fit the bill. No decision has yet been taken.

The agency has submitted a report to the Scottish Executive in which it identifies five areas for the marine park.

They are the Solway Firth; the Argyll Islands and coast; Ardnamurchan, the Small Isles and the south Skye coast; the north Skye coast and Wester Ross; and North Uist, the Sound of Harris, Harris and South Lewis.

We have a unique opportunity to promote the best of Scotland
Ross Finnie
Environment Minister

It said the new marine park would bring benefits to local communities through increased tourism and funding.

SNH's Andrew Bachell said it had been a challenge to create a shortlist of potential areas for the new park because of the "spectacular" range of possibilities.

"We think the five areas listed are the top candidates but there is potential in the other areas we have highlighted - which together make up around two thirds of Scotland's coastline," he said.

'Abundant seas'

"Most people agree that designation as a national park is a great accolade, one which brings considerable socio-economic benefits to an area.

"However it is important that any new national park goes to an area where there is local public support."

Mr Finnie said the park would have to demonstrate it could support tourism and inshore fisheries.

"With abundant seas, vibrant communities and world class fish and shellfish on our doorstep we have a unique opportunity to promote the best of Scotland," he said.

"No decisions have been taken, or will be without detailed consultation."

'Sensitive areas'

The Joint Marine Programme Scotland welcomed the list of potential sites for the park.

Becky Boyd, joint marine programme officer, said: "Research from other countries shows that these areas clearly do work both in a conservation sense and also for local economies."

Meanwhile, Deputy Environment Minister Rhona Brankin has announced that some of Scotland's major rivers and lochs will benefit from a twenty-fold increase in the designation of "sensitive area" status.

The new status is being conferred on parts of more than 80 water bodies across Scotland.




SEE ALSO:
Concerns surface over marine park
30 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Front-runners in marine park race
23 Dec 05 |  Scotland
Views sought on new marine park
04 Aug 05 |  Scotland


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