Arran diver Howard Wood receives world’s top grassroots environmental award

Howard Wood, who spearheaded a campaign that established Scotland’s first community-developed Marine Protected Area, giving locals a voice in a debate that had long been dominated by the commercial fishing industry, has been awarded the internationally prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the world’s most respected grassroots environmental awards.

Mr. Wood, chairman and co-founder of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust, has finally, and in a big way, been recognized for his work in promoting sustainable management of the Arran’s seas.

This is the first time the Goldman Environmental Prize has gone to Scotland, and the second time to somebody in the UK.

Howard Wood

Mr. Wood has been recognised for his efforts in protecting marine life. (Image:

Mr. Wood, who moved to Arran with his family as a teenager, is a keen diver and has witnessed first hand the impact of dredging on the area’s marine ecosystem.

In 1995, he established the Trust, dubbed by its acronym COAST, with Don MacNeish to champion sustainable management of marine resources for the benefit of everybody.

COAST has grown from being an organisation made up purely of volunteers to having two dedicated employees today.


Mr. Wood said:

“I am delighted with the award. This is global recognition for everything the community of marine volunteers on Arran have been working on for so long.”

On-going campaign

COAST has fought against the destruction of marine life in the sea surrounding Arran, particularly the practice of bottom trawling and scallop dredging.

Bottom trawling is dragging a fishing net along the sea floor, while scallop dredging is the towing of a scallop dredge (a device) along the bottom of the sea.

In 2008, COAST successfully established a No Take Zone in Lamash Bay, and in July 2014, following the organisation’s proposal, the Scottish Government designated a large area of sea around the south of Arran as one of 30 MPAs (Marine Protected Areas).

COAST staff and volunteers

COAST staff and volunteers. (Image:

Mr. Wood says the organisation still needs to make sure adequate protection is given to the South Arran MPA, and wants to establish better management of marine life for the whole Firth of Clyde.

COAST is currently launching an Avaaz online petition, urging the Scottish Government to end dredging and bottom trawling in MPAs.

Mr. Wood said:

“The Scottish Government has a duty to manage the marine environment as a public asset, for now and for the future and to give local communities a real say in management.”

“COAST staff and volunteers believe that by restoring marine health in the Clyde we can improve our fisheries, boost tourism and create a sustainable future for marine life and our younger generations.”

“Convincing the Scottish Government of the need for Scotland’s first ever No Take Zone and following this with a designated Marine Protected Area has been a huge achievement. The NTZ’s is already recovering and the MPA will help to restore marine species and important fish nursery habitats.”

Video – Howard Wood, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize

This Howard Wood background video is narrated by Robert Redford.