Loch Carron has been designated an Emergency Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area to save its seabed.
The protection follows recent reports of dredging occurring at the loch in northwestern Scotland, which devastated the environment.
“While a loophole of inshore fisheries management led to damage, we are hopeful that there is sufficient healthy reef left to return Loch Carron to its natural state, given time,” said the Marine Conservation Society’s Calum Duncan.
Watch a video of Loch Carron in early May, taken by Seasearch divers:
Scotland’s national marine plan policy states places with a delicate ecosystem and vulnerable species merit protection from potential harmful activity.
Loch Carron is home to flame shell, maerl and horse mussel beds.
It is thought that a commercial scallop dredger was used at the site, which is towed along the bottom of the seabed by a fishing boat to target bottom-dwelling species.
Main image: A flame shell on a maerl bed with red and green seaweeds. © SNH