It was the pace of change that made Howard Wood realize something was going badly wrong. In the 1970s, when he started scuba diving in the crystal-clear seas off the Isle of Arran, the seabed was a mass of colourful fish, shellfish and plants.
"By the late 80s you were seeing species disappear year on year — you realise that this isn't a long slow evolution of change, this is rapid," said Wood, a diver and co-founder of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST).
He was witnessing the impact of a new type of dredger that could be used to scrape up scallops — a prized shellfish — on seabeds previously unfishable this way. And then, in 1984, the UK scrapped laws, dating to the 19th century, that had banned most trawling within 3 miles of Scotland's shores. By the early 1990s the seabed was becoming an underwater desert.
After 13 years of campaigning, in 2008 the Scottish government designated a no-take zone (NTZ, an area set where no extractive activity is allowed) in 2.67 square kilometers (1.03 square miles) of the northern side of the island. The zone was established around Lamlash Bay — a picture-postcard slice of silver sea studded with the huge rock of Holy Island. It's now totally protected from all fishing and other extraction.
"We've seen a general increase in biodiversity compared to the areas just next to it," according to marine ecologist Bryce Stewart from York University. "We've got nearly four times the density of king scallops in the NTZ than back in 2010, and they're also much bigger, much older and much more reproductively productive. We have also seen a big increase in the number of lobsters."
Lobsters are now four times more abundant in the no-take zone compared to the areas around it. Seaweeds, corals and other forms of life have blossomed as well.
The Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation (SCFC) COAST and others are now campaigning for a new 3-mile limit to be introduced across Scotland. That would stop inshore trawling and dredging for shellfish. But many fishermen oppose it.
Alistair Sinclair from the SCFC is campaigning for the 3-mile limit, says people are complaining that fish are disappearing along the Scottish coast.
"That is due to trawl activity, and you can only take so much out the bank until there's nothing left in the bank."