Reserve issues an SOS call for volunteers

David Bellamy opening St Abbs Marine Reserve in 1984
David Bellamy opening St Abbs Marine Reserve in 1984

St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve, the longest running in Scotland, is in danger of folding if new committee members don’t come forward.

The Reserve, which was opened by famous wildlife enthusiast David Bellamy to great excitement back in August 1984, is reaching the end of its current funding period and to apply for more a fully operational committee must be in place.

The problem lies with the fact that some of the current committee are reaching retirement age so are stepping down from their positions.

Their departure will leave a number of vacant positions and if they aren’t filled by some new faces there is a distinct possibility that the Marine Reserve, which is currently funded by The Crown Estate, The Robertson Trust, National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Newman’s Own Foundation, will sink without a trace.

“It’s not the outcome anyone wants and we’re determined not to let it happen but there is a chance it might have to,” ranger Laura Smith told ‘The Berwickshire’.

“The funding for the work of the VMR is coming to an end.

“In order to secure more funding, we must have a robust and energetic committee

“ If we cannot attract new office bearers the committee will fold, the Marine Ranger position will go and so will the good work that the VMR does to educate children and ensure that visiting divers understand the code of conduct and protect the marine life that local fishermen rely upon to make a living.

“We are sending out an SOS, will you hear it and help us before we sink?”

The east Berwickshire coast is noted for having some fantastic diving waters and Laura said that part of the appeal for potential visitors was the fact that the area is covered by a marine reserve.

If this is no longer in existence it is likely some divers would be out off from coming which in turn could impact on the local economy as it is estimated they boost it by £2.3 million.

Then there is also a significant threat that without a reserve the coastal wildlife would suffer as there wouldn’t be the protection in place to prevent people tampering with things or surveys carried out to keep a regular check on population numbers.

Although she has occupied the marine ranger post at St Abbs for a few months, Laura said she got the impression it was appreciated by the local community and was therefore hopeful they would step in to help secure its future.

“The welcome I got when I first started suggested to me that a lot of people care about the work the Reserve does,” she continued.

“But there is that age old thing of people not knowing what they’ve got til it’s gone.

“The Reserve is a go to point for a lot of people- fishermen, divers, tourists and locals.

“There are people who have dedicated a lot of their time to keeping it going and it would be a shame to see nearly 30 years of hard work go down the pan.

“No-one wants to see that happen.”

The Marine Reserve Committee currently consists of a representative from 15 different organisations including: Eyemouth Harbour Trust, Scottish Borders Council, Anglo Fishermen’s Association and Marine Conservation Society.

If you would like to join the committee a public meeting is being held in Eyemouth Fishermen’s Mission on Tuesday, July 30 at 6pm.