The Scottish Marine Bill contains provisions that will improve our ability to conserve our marine biodiversity and historic environment. These improvements will better provide for targeted action over and above the marine planning powers that are aimed at wider management of our seas. The Bill contains powers for new marine protected areas, better protection for seals and improved enforcement powers.
Marine Protected Areas
The Bill contains a new power to designate Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs). This will provide greater flexibility for Ministers to use area-based measures to conserve marine biodiversity as well as nationally important historic assets such as historic shipwrecks.
The Natural Environment
At present the only effective powers for habitat protection exist under EU legislation. The new MPA designation can be used to protect marine and coastal habitats and species of national importance. This will put Scotland in a better position to contribute to international action on marine biodiversity through networks of MPAs. There will also be provision for communities to recommend areas for designation.
The Historical Environment
The existing powers for protection of the marine historic environment are not considered to be flexible enough. The new power will broaden the scope of what types of historic asset can be protected if they are of national importance. This will allow Scottish Ministers to target protection and management according to the preservation objectives of each Historic MPA. As at present, third parties will continue to be able to nominate historic features that should be considered for protection.
Other Potential Uses of the New Powers
The new powers may also be used to demonstrate or research new methods
of managing our marine environment.
All MPA proposals will be based on science, or equivalent information for historic features. However, socio-economic impacts will be taken into account where two or more alternative sites meet the scientific criteria equally.
FIGURE 10. POSSIBLE PROCESS FOR IDENTIFICATION AND SELECTION OF NATIONALLY IMPORTANT MPAs AS PART OF THE MPA NETWORK IN SCOTTISH WATERS.
Socio-economic factors can be taken into account when making decisions on the management of sites.
We anticipate the new marine planning system will provide a sound basis for ensuring sites are managed well. There will also be specific powers to control activities that are damaging to sites where necessary, but we anticipate that most activities will be compatible with managing features within protected areas. These will add to existing powers to manage particular activities, e.g. powers to regulate fisheries through domestic or EU legislation.
Existing legislation is in place to protect certain marine species and there is flexibility to apply that to other species where necessary. We are working with Scottish Natural Heritage to review whether there are other species which merit additional protection through existing legislation or other mechanisms.
The Bill will improve the protection of seals, for which we have an international responsibility. The next part outlines the proposal in more detail.
For the first time there will be clarity on who is responsible for enforcing powers in the marine environment. There will also be considerably more powers to enforce marine conservation legislation. Marine Scotland will be responsible for the new joined enforcement regime.