Scotland’s coast supports a multitude of species, such as basking sharks and dolphins, vast populations of seabirds along with cold-water corals and maerl beds. Although Scotland has recently established a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the voices of the local communities that live in and around the coast are often left unheard in the management of their seas. Decision making is predominantly influenced by a powerful industrial fishing lobby.

In close partnership with the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) – recognised as global pioneers of community conservation – FFI is supporting a growing number of communities to develop their own aspirations for the management for their neighbouring coastal waters, helping fledgling community groups to realise their own ambitions for locally appropriate marine protection. Support to the Fair Isle community, for example, resulted in the establishment of a new MPA in their waters, which will enable research to determine how they can best protect the globally-renowned seabird colonies that nest here. In addition, FFI is helping these communities create a strong and sustainable Coastal Communities Network, to enable them to work together more effectively and create a community-led voice for Scotland’s inshore waters.


Local communities have witnessed the mismanagement of Scotland’s seas first-hand, and have directly experienced the impacts of this. The proactive role that communities can play in marine conservation decision-making in Scotland has been illustrated by COAST, a group of Arran residents who established the country’s first and only marine no-take zone. In close partnership with COAST, FFI has been championing and supporting a growing number of communities across Scotland to engage in local marine conservation and restoration efforts recognising that local communities hold essential knowledge and have a vital stake and mandate to drive forward effective locally led conservation.

Our work

Since 2014, FFI has been helping community groups realise their own ambitions for locally appropriate marine protection across Scotland by supporting them to establish their own operations and governance, raise their own funds, and develop their own restoration initiatives. 

We have brokered relationships between community groups through direct information and experience sharing, collaborative multi-partner initiatives, and shared events and exchanges. Crucially, we have also been supporting coastal communities to create a strong and sustainable community conservation network that allows community-led voices to be heard and enables peer-to-peer support between groups to advocate for sustainable management.

As of 2021, this dynamic and growing Coastal Communities Network has 18 engaged and vocal community groups taking action in their own areas and working together (as well as with government agencies, academics and NGOs) to campaign for wider policy changes that seek to better protect Scotland’s seas. 

Key milestones

  • 2020

    The Coastal Communities Network (CCN) now comprises 18 community groups (see map) with seven forums that allow members to discuss different issues and plan shared action.

  • 2019

    FFI launches the Community Support Fund, a small grants fund for community groups focused on biodiversity conservation projects.

  • 2019

    Dr Sylvia Earle’s foundation, Mission Blue, declares its first ever Hope Spot in the UK on the Argyll Coast, which today is building its profile and funds.

  • 2019

    CCN’s aquaculture forum, consisting of 12 different CCN community groups, is formed and secures representation in government technical working groups.

  • 2017

    FFI teams up with NatureScot to develop the community-led Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Initiative, which enables communities to access training, share skills and information, and develop shared protocols for monitoring inshore waters.

  • 2016

    A ‘demonstration & research’ marine protected area is designated in Fair Isle, after decades of effort from the community.

  • 2014-2015

    FFI helps to establish new community groups along the west coast, such as the Community Association of Lochs and Sounds (CAOLAS) and Craignish Restoration of Marine and Coastal Habitat (CROMACH).

Project partners


We are grateful for the support of Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation, Arcadia, Millichope Foundation, Hugh Fraser Foundation
and William Grant Foundation for this project.