WWF Scotland has welcomed Brussels’ move to introduce emergency fishing restrictions over the Darwin Mounds, which will prevent further damage to these deep water coral mounds for a period of six months.

Dr Richard Dixon, head of research for WWF Scotland, said: “We welcome minister for environment and fisheries Ross Finnie’s role in protecting these unique cold water reefs.”

Brussels will shortly be tabling a proposal for a permanent ban on the use of bottom trawling gear in the area.

A study of the area has shown photographic evidence of smashed and fragmented corals and damage where linear channels had been cut into the reefs by fishing trawlers. Most of this damage occurs in the summer months when fishing activities are at their peak.

Only discovered in 1998, the Darwin Mounds are a unique collection of cold-water coral mounds at a depth of 1000 metres, about 185km north west of Scotland. They support a wide diversity of marine life.