May 12, 2015
Eco News Network profiles environmental leaders each week in our new series. This week we feature Howard Wood, Isle of Arran, Scotland, recipient of the The Goldman Environmental Prize 2015 for environmental work in Europe. Wood spearheaded a campaign that established the first community-developed Marine Protected Area in Scotland, giving citizens a voice in a debate that has been dominated by the commercial fishing industry.
The Goldman Environmental Prize honors fearless grassroots environmental activists from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America.
Howard Wood, Isle of Arran, Scotland
Howard Wood was a teenager when his family moved back to the Isle of Arran, where his father spent much of his youth. He spent his free time diving in the local waters, marveling at the sea life below. Over the course of hundreds of dives a year, he witnessed firsthand the destruction of marine wildlife brought on by irresponsible fishing practices.
Sustained lobbying from powerful commercial fishing interests led the government to repeal seabed protection measures. The once plentiful stock of herring, cod, haddock, and turbot quickly collapsed, and the industry moved on to exploit what little remained of marine resources in the area: scallops and prawns. They indiscriminately ploughed through the seabed with dredges, damaged the seafloor and maimed coral and kelp forests—vital nursery grounds for fish and shellfish—crippling the habitat necessary for a healthy marine ecosystem.
In 1995, Wood and his friend Don MacNeish co-founded the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) and set out to champion sustainable management of marine resources for the benefit of all.
With his colleagues at COAST, Wood launched a grassroots campaign to establish Scotland’s first No Take Zone (NTZ) in Lamlash Bay, an area they had identified as key habitat for regenerating marine wildlife. He enlisted divers to work alongside scientists to monitor the coastline to enforce the new rules, an effort that would yield dramatic recovery of seaweed beds, corals and juvenile scallops in just a few years.
Building on this momentum, Wood led COAST to submit a proposal in 2012 to designate the South Arran Sea as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). The proposal was developed in close consultation with local communities on different methods of fishing and relied on meticulous survey data from divers and researchers.
In July 2014, the Scottish government announced 30 new MPAs in Scotland including the South Arran MPA, the first and only community-developed MPA in the country. Wood and his team are now working to set a policy that legally recognizes the community’s right to have a stake in the management of its seas and ensures that the area is protected from destructive fishing practices.
To learn more about Howard and his work visit www.goldmanprize.org/howard
You can read more about The Goldman Environmental Prize and this year’s winners in this recent Eco News Network article. https://econewsnetwork.org/2015/04/goldman-environmental-prize-winners/
To read the first profile in this series on Berta Cáceres of Honduras click here.
Photo provided by The Goldman Environmental Prize.
Graphic courtesy of South Arran MPA.