Today’s guest post comes from Lindsay Roberts, Marine Policy and Advocacy Officer at Scottish Environment LINK.  She’s a total mad surfer type and practically lives in the sea, so it’s not like she’s not talking from experience here.

This year Easter Sunday was spent the same way it is every year – a big BBQ on the beach with friends and family. It’s an event steeped in tradition, but this year marked a turning point. For the first time ever, the Easter egg hunt was cancelled.

Apparently we are too old. To be fair, a group of 20 – 30 somethings racing around the rocks, cheered on by overly competitive parents was beginning to look a little ridiculous! As I looked at us, all grown up, I realised almost half of ‘the kids’ now earned a living working with the sea, including me.

I work as marine policy and advocacy officer for Scottish Environment LINK. For those of you who haven’t heard of LINK before, we are the umbrella body representing over 30 environmental NGOs in Scotland. Together we represent almost 500,000 people.

Now my friends’ choices of profession are perhaps not surprising for a group of kids brought up on the beaches of East Lothian, but it made me think about how life in Scotland is inextricably linked with the sea.

Simply put, Scotland’s seas are Scotland’s lifeblood. They provide us with a huge variety of goods and services. They are at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution holding a quarter of Europe’s tidal and wind resource; aquaculture is Scotland’s most valuable food export; we have world class conditions for sailing (one of our Easter BBQers is a former Olympic squad member); and following his victory at the Cold Water Classic at Thurso East, Australian Brent Dorrington said the week provided the best waves he had surfed in a competition – ever.

Underpinning all of this is the fact that Scotland’s seas are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Our waters support over 40,000 species of plant and animals from single cell species to sharks, whales and dolphins. The oceans represent the largest carbon sink on the planet, and recent reports suggest marine and coastal habitats such as salt marsh, sea grass and kelp forests, all plentiful in Scotland, could be more efficient at storing carbon than peat.

We should all be seriously concerned, therefore, by the contents of Scotland’s Marine Atlas. Published around a month ago, it passed without much fanfare, yet its findings are pretty shocking. There is serious concern over the vast majority of Scotland’s seabed, and the health of virtually every single broad scale habitat type is in decline. Important seabird populations continue to struggle, common seal numbers appear to be in freefall, while all around our coast sharks and rays remain in a perilous condition. These species and habitats face a huge number of pressures from fishing, offshore development and now climate change.

That is why we are asking candidates to sign our ‘2011 Marine Declaration’. The Declaration asks candidates to commit to reversing the declining health and biological diversity of our seas throughout the next session of Parliament, by protecting and enhancing the marine environment through the Marine (Scotland) Act, and an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas.

Last year the Marine Act was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament, giving us new tools to help manage human activity in the marine environment.

The way the next session of Parliament chooses to implement the Act will be crucial to stopping and reversing the declining health of our amazing marine environment. MSPs can choose a business as usual scenario, which I fear may damage our seas to a point from which there is no return. Alternatively, they can grasp the opportunity provided by the Act to protect and regenerate our seas, respecting the environmental limits of the resource upon which we are so reliant.

So next time you bump into your candidates, why not ask them if they have signed LINK’s ‘2011 Marine Declaration’? We will be posting the names of all those who have signed up on our Facebook and Twitter pages.