Wood set out to champion sustainable management of marine resources for the benefit of all. In doing so, he faced an uphill fight against a deeply entrenched history of poor marine management.
With his colleagues at COAST, Wood launched a grassroots campaign to establish Scotland’s first No Take Zone (NTZ) in Lamlash Bay, an area they had identified as key habitat for regenerating marine wildlife. After 12 long years dotted by numerous setbacks and progress, meetings with public officials, local fishermen and scientists, community rallies, and petitions to the Scottish parliament, Wood celebrated the establishment of the NTZ in 2008.
Wood enlisted local divers to work alongside academic scientists to monitor the coastline to enforce the new rules, an effort that would yield dramatic recovery of seaweed beds, corals and juvenile scallops in just a few years.
Building on this momentum, Wood led COAST to submit a proposal in 2012 to designate the South Arran Sea as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). The proposal was developed in close consultation with local communities on different methods of fishing and relied on meticulous survey data from divers and researchers. Wood led community education efforts and rallied citizens to keep the issue on the political front burner in Scotland.
In July 2014, the Scottish government announced 30 new Marine Protected Areas in Scotland including the South Arran MPA, the first and only community-developed MPA in the country. Wood and his team at COAST are now working with the government to set a policy that legally recognizes the community’s right to have a stake in the management of its seas and ensures that the area is protected from destructive fishing practices. The approach marks a significant departure from previous debates where the commercial fishing industry has been the only stakeholder at the table.
Wood is also working with other coastal communities in Scotland to develop similar proposals and promote sustainable marine management policies that will allow fishing communities to keep their culture and livelihoods for generations to come.