Rare flame shell


Loch Carron is at the centre of a major row over the impact of scallop dredging.

Marine conservationists have condemned what they say as the devastation of a rare flame shell reef which is said to have been intensively dredged recently on at least two occasions causing damage which made take decades to recover from.

Although the dredger was operating legally supporters of further protection rules see the latest incident as a failure of Scottish inshore fishery management.

Via the BBC, marine biologist Sue Scott, who has lived in the area for 25 years, said the flame shell reefs were a vital habitat for hundreds of species - including the commercially-important scallops.

Commenting that the same dredger had visited the area twice in April, making repeated passes close to the shore,  she said: "Divers have seen hundreds of dead and dying flame shells.

"The seabed has been ripped up and there's damage to marine life - starfish with legs missing, dead squat lobsters, dead spider crabs and smashed sea urchins.

"It's just devastating."

It is thought to have been the first time in 10-15 years that a dredger has come to the area.

She said the reef, which covers about a square kilometre, had been "wrecked".

Ms Scott said she could not understand why it was legal for dredgers to cause so much damage.

Flame shells are bivalves that make nests on the sea bed. The reef that forms around the nests is a valuable nursery ground for young scallops, crustaceans and fish.

Many of the flame shell beds that used to be found off the west coast of Scotland have now disappeared and Scottish Natural Heritage considers large beds rare.