The Darwin Mounds

The Darwin Mounds are one successful example of a legislated Marine Protected Area in the UK. The Darwin Mounds were first discovered in May 1998 during a sea bed survey (De Santo & Jones 2007). They are situated 185km off the coast of NW Scotland, at depths of 1000 metres covering an area of 1500km2 (Figure 13). At these mounds Lophelia pertusa was found in great abundance with associated fauna such as invertebrates, protozoans and xenophyophores. The Darwin Mounds were the first example of L.pertusa found growing on sand rather than a hard substrate , the Lophelia found growing here also possessed a unique tail-like structure not observed in any other locations (De Santo & Jones 2007).

Figure 13: Location of the Darwin Mounds (Image replicated from De santo & Jones 2007)


In 2003 damage from trawlers was starting to be noticeably observed, in investigations it was apparent that trawling damage was effecting over half of the Eastern area of the Darwin Mounds (De Santo & Jones 2007).  The irrefutable damage from trawling triggered a series of actions leading to the permanent closure of the Darwin Mounds to fishing vessels (Figure 14).  In 2004 the European Commission imposed a 1380km2 permanent ban on trawling in this area. This was the first example of an offshore fisheries closed solely for nature conservation and not to replenish fish stocks (De Santo & Jones 2007).

 One disadvantage with Marine Protected Areas is that there legislation often only comes about as a result of obvious signs of destruction. De Santo and Jones (2007) highlight a very important point: If evidence of damage to cold-water corals is what is needed to close the site to fishing vessels, then what evidence is needed to protect a pristine coral ecosystem at risk from damage. The most effective method of protection would be to safe-guard these areas before any damage has occurred.

Figure 14: Showing the lengthy process (1998-2004) and numerous actions required to legislate a permanent fishing ban in the Darwin Mounds (De Santo & Jones 2007)

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