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Dredging had devastated the once rich waters around the Scottish isle of Arran. But a small protected area has created a flourishing pocket of marine life and campaigners want to establish similar areas around Scotland. 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 Scottish isle of Arran, the seabed was a mass of colorful fish, shellfish and plants. “By the late 80s you were seeing species disappear year on year — you realize 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 (5 kilometers) of Scotland’s shores.

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