The latest Moray Firth Partnership news bulletin is available here. If you have any coastal and marine news to share, local events to list, or wish to contribute an article to the next newsletter, please let us know. In case you hadn't heard, the Moray Firth Partnership is now on Facebook!! We will be posting regular updates and items of interest....please head over and like us!!  All feedback is welcome.

Marine Conservation Society call for a Deposit Return System in Scotland
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) are pushing ahead with their campaign for a Deposit Return System for bottles and cans in Scotland.  Similar schemes in other countries have been proven to reduce littering by up to 80%! MCS are asking anyone who supports the proposal to ask their local MSP to support the motion - more info on how to do so is available here.

MCS Deposit Return System

Highland Environment Forum - Spring Conferences
The Highland Environment Forum have advertised notices for three interesting and thought-provoking environmental conferences, with speakers of national standing. All events are free, with lunch provided and are open for booking now. Email Caroline Vawdrey to book your place.

26 April 2017 Invasive non-native species forum held jointly between Aberdeenshire, Highland and Moray will take place at Elgin Youth Cafe.  The programme can be viewed here.


Scottish Government Decommission Fund
THE Scottish Government have launched a new £5 million decommissioning fund in a bid to stop Scotland missing out on lucrative contracts as the oil and gas industry runs down its operations in the North Sea. Decommissioning, the act of retiring the hundreds of oil rigs and platforms, the 1800 wells, and 7500km of pipeline, is expected to take about 25 years and could see operators spend tens of billions of pounds on what will be a mammoth task. It is a lucrative business, with industry body Oil & Gas UK reporting that about 80 per cent of the contracts for the work have not yet been allocated. Read more....

Caithness Moray High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC)Project Update
Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE T) have circulated an update on the latest activities relating to the offshore installation of the High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cable project in the Moray Firth. The update contains a description of activities, anticipated dates and project contact details.  Further information and regular updates about the Caithness-Moray project can also be found on the project’s website.

Plastic bags on UK beaches drops by almost half!
The number of plastic bags on UK beaches has dropped by 40% according to findings by the Marine Conservation Society. Numbers have dropped from 11 per 100m to just 7, and litter levels overall have dropped by 4% in the UK and 18% in Scotland alone. Number of litter items are still high though, with 268,384 individual items of litter collected at 364 events by just under 6,000 volunteers.  The Marine Conservation Society, who run a 'Beachwatch' programme year-round an an annual 'Great British Beach Clean' every September, record the number and type of litter items found on our beaches in order to not only reduce litter but identify what the most common types are and where they are coming from. They were instrumental in getting a 5p charge applied to plastic carrier bags around the UK and have run several more marine litter-based campaigns including 'Wet Wipes Turn Nasty When You Flush Them' and their current 'Have You Got The Bottle?' to campaign for a deposit return scheme on bottles.  The full report, including top 10 litter items found on the beach, can be read here.

You can sign up to become a Beachwatch volunteer here and take part in, or even organise your own, beach cleans.

Marine Conservation Society Beachwatch volunteers


Ferries in the Firthlands
David Worthington of University of the Highlands and Islands explores the social and cultural heritage of tidal water ferries in the Moray Firth in his latest article published in Rural History, available here.

Offshore Wind Powering Ahead in the Moray Firth
CKD Galbraith's latest edition of Energy Matters discusses the bright future for offshore wind power in the Moray Firth, with strong support from local communities. Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) will return to these communities with a road show of events next summer. These will be announced by local press and we will keep members informed.

Noise Mitigation Shows Positive Effects
Research commissioned by WWF UK has found that noise mitigation measures could reduce the negative impact that offshore wind power development has on harbour porpoises in UK waters.  WWF-UK’s Marine Governance Programme Manager Alec Taylor said: "As we move towards a zero-carbon future, we must take the right steps to allow the maximum deployment of renewable energy at minimal cost to biodiversity."  Read more....

Carbon Capture Technology Boost
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is pioneering technology to capture CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and trap them in a way that they don't contribute to climate change. The University of Aberdeen have recently (18 Oct) reached the semi-finals of a global competition to develop such technologies, with plans to convert CO2 into building materials. This gives them to go-ahead to perfecting the technology, which has the potential to provide sustainable construction materials for projects worldwide!  Read more....

A £1 million funding boost is now available for Highland & Moray fishing communities!
Highland & Moray fishing communities are being encouraged to apply for a share of £1 million pounds of European Funding to support the sustainable development of fisheries areas. Funding can be used to support a range of projects that will deliver on local priorities including adding value to fisheries products, creating job opportunities and stimulating economic growth in fishing, aquaculture and marine based industries. For guidance and advice please contact the EMFF Development Officer Sarah Lamb on 01955 609560 or by email. Further information and expression of interest forms can be found on the Highland and Moray FLAG website.

UK Government Announce a Micro-Bead Ban!
On September 3rd, the Government announced a UK-wide ban on the use of plastic microbeads in all personal care products and cosmetics by the end of 2017. Read more....

SNH publishes catalogue of Priority Marine Features in Scottish Waters
Scottish Natural Heritage have published a commissioned report summarising the 81 Priority Marine Features (PMFs) in Scottish waters. Priority Marine Features are species and habitats which have been identified as being of highest priority for nature conservation in Scotland.  This comprehensive document includes photos, characteristics, habitat, distribution and conservation status of each feature, and will be useful in informing ongoing nature conservation actions and is available to download here (64MB).

The Highland LEADER Programme is open and receiving applications!
Funding of over £6.6m is available for projects which benefit communities across the Highlands. The EU funded Highland LEADER Programme is delivered locally through seven Local Area Partnerships (LAPs) across the Highland area. Funding totalling £3.4m will be allocated to projects by these LAPs by the end of March 2019. Individuals, groups, organisations and businesses also have the opportunity to apply for funding for rural enterprise and farm diversification projects with £1.76m available for projects.  The application submission dates for these have stil to be set.

Funding of £440,269 will be available for co-operation projects between Local Area Partnership areas within Highland with a further £440,269 for projects between organisations or groups in Scotland, the UK or Europe. Projects which contribute towards the aims and objectives of the Highland LEADER Programme will be eligible for consideration. The seven Local Area Partnerships have each developed a Local Area Action Plan which outlines development priorities and will guide their funding decisions.

For more information about the Highland LEADER Programme and to download a copy of the Local Area Action Plan for your area please click HERE.  If you have an idea for a LEADER project you can complete an Expression of Interest form on the Scottish Rural Network website. The submission of an Expression of Interest is the first formal step in applying for LEADER funding.