Description

Recreational sub-aqua diving or snorkelling and associated use of boats. Information in this section also relates to taking of shellfish by divers.

Key locations

Throughout the Berwickshire and Northumberland coast with particular hot spots around Eyemouth and St Abbs, the Farne Islands, and St Mary’s Island

Frequency

Continuous with less activity in winter months

Potential issues

  • Abrasion/physical damage to reef and sea cave fauna caused by contact with divers or contact with exhaust air bubbles
  • Removal of species
  • Divers and associated boats can also cause noise or visual disturbance to seal and birds

Features of Marine Protected Areas which might be affected

  • Reefs
  • Sea caves
  • Grey seal
  • Birds (wintering and breeding)

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (England)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Power for the creation of Bylaws on European Marine Sites

 

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regulation 40) Marine Management Organisation
Powers for creation of Bylaws on MCZs Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Section 129) Marine Management Organisation
IFCA Bylaw making powers Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Sections 155-162) NIFCA

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (England)

The following guidance, codes, plans or strategies are also relevant to the management of this activity:

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
British Sub-Aqua Club (BASC)  Diving environmental guidelines Guidelines for BASC Members BASC Non-Statutory
Northumberland Coast AONB Code of Conduct for Divers Code of Conduct for divers within the waters off the AONB Northumberland Coast AONB Non-Statutory

Details of Current Management (England)

Diving on the Northumberland coast is popular from both boats and from the shore. There is limited management of the activity and no formal regulatory mechanisms, such as the creation of Bylaws, are in place. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has powers to make byelaws in English inshore waters to protect marine SACs and SPAs and marine conservation zones (MCZs) from activities that may harm them. MMO byelaws must help to further the conservation objectives of the site. the MMO would consider voluntary measures before making a byelaw. If a permanent byelaw is required, this would be formally consulted upon. Please see this link for further information about the byelaw making process.

Local restrictions on numbers of boat launchings are in place at locations such as North Sunderland (Seahouses) Harbour or Beadnell slipway (manged by Northumberland County Council) which act to limit the number of dive boats active each day. The National Trust collects data on the numbers of dive boats visiting the Farne Islands National Nature Reserve and restricts landings upon the islands.

A number of outside factors, including weather or availability of accommodation, also influence the number of divers present along the coast.

Removal of shellfish by divers is regulated by Bylaws put in place by Northumberland IFCA. NIFCA carries out regular patrols of divers to ensure they are only removing 2 lobsters, 5 brown crabs, 20 whelks and 5 prawns or less, and that shellfish are above minimum size.

The British Sub-Aqua Club has its own environmental guidelines which are promoted amongst its members.

The Northumberland Coast AONB has produced a Code of Conduct for divers http://www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org/diving/

Gaps in Management (England)

There is currently no coordination of the figures recording the numbers of dive boats launched annually along the coast. A study of diving impacts around the Farnes was commissioned by Natural England in 2006 but similar studies for other dive hotspots have not been undertaken. This study indicated no short term impacts from diving but did not look at long term impacts. There is currently no Code of Conduct for diving which covers the whole of the Northumberland/North Tyneside coast

Legal Responsibilities or Duties (Scotland)

A number of legal powers, duties or regulatory tools exist which are relevant to this activity and its management. These are summarised in the table below:

Legal Power, Duty or Regulatory Tool Relevant Legislation Lead Organisation
Power for the creation of Bylaws on European Marine Sites The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (Regulation 28) Marine Scotland
Restrictions on catch sizes of certain shellfish from unlicensed fishing boats The Shellfish (Restrictions on Taking by Unlicensed Fishing Boats) (Scotland) Order 2017 Marine Scotland

Relevant Guidance, Plans or Codes (Scotland)

The following guidance, codes, plans or strategies are also relevant to the management of this activity:

Name Description Responsible Organisation Statutory or Non-Statutory?
St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve (VMR) Code of Conduct Code of Conduct St Abbs and Eyemouth VMR Non-Statutory
British Sub-Aqua Club (BASC)  Diving environmental guidelines Guidelines for BASC Members BASC Non-Statutory

Details of Current Management (Scotland)

There is limited management of diving on the Berwickshire coast and no formal regulatory mechanisms, such as the creation of Bylaws, are in place.

St Abbs Harbour Trust records the numbers of vessels using the harbour and can restrict the number launched if necessary.

In practice, a number of outside factors, including weather or availability of accommodation, also influence the number of divers present along the coast.

Marine Scotland has regulations in place restrict the numbers of certain shellfish species (scallop, crab, nethrops and lobster) that can be taken by unlicensed fishing boats on a daily basis.  Shellfish taken by divers would fall within these regulations https://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Sea-Fisheries/InshoreFisheries/unlicensed

The British Sub-Aqua Club has its own environmental guidelines which are promoted amongst its members.

St Abbs & Eyemouth VMR and Harbour Trusts advise divers on good practice, promoting a VMR code of conduct. The existence of the VMR ranger and the presence of the seasonal wardens’ post help improve relations between fishermen and the diving community

Gaps in Management (Scotland)

There is currently no coordination of the figures recording the numbers of dive boats launched annually along the whole of the Berwickshire and Northumberland coast.