Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Designations

As of 24 July 2014, 30 MPAs have been designated under the Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act. These will be incorporated into the National Marine Plan and represented in National Marine Plan interactive alongside existing protected areas.

Of the 30 MPAs, 17 fall under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 in Scottish territorial waters and 13 in offshore waters under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. These 30 have been recommended by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for inshore waters and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) for offshore waters. These designations fulfil duties in both the Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, as well as furthering commitments to form part of the wider UK contribution to the OSPAR North-East Atlantic MPA network.

Inshore MPA/SAC Management

In line with EU legislation, suitable management measures must be implemented at each site to conserve the protected features. The 17 inshore MPAs along with 22 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been split into two groups to allow for easier implementation of management measures. The SACs have been included as a review of current management measures was deemed to be necessary after re-assessment of the EU Habitats Directive.

The sites were split generally on the basis of the presence of the most sensitive benthic habitats and species, irrespective of the designation type. Some sites with highly sensitive features are included in the second phase because the location is subject to some form of existing management arrangement.

The 2014 consultation on the management of inshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) ran from 11 November 2014 to 02 February 2015. The responses received during the consultation have informed the proposed management measures for each site and the four Marine Conservation Orders.

What are MPAs?

The MPA Network

By protecting rare, representative and productive species and habitats on the basis of sound science, the rich diversity of life in the waters around Scotland and the benefits they bring can be enjoyed in the future.

Scotland’s seas are extraordinary and provide nurseries and feeding grounds for species that are critical to the marine ecosystem, including fish species that are relied upon for food. Kelp and seagrass forests and offshore reefs help reduce the effects of storms by acting as a physical buffer. Healthy seas also assist in protecting us from climate change. It is therefore important not just to protect rare, threatened, declining, or nationally representative species and habitats for their own sake, but also for these benefits that are taken for granted.

SNH has completed a series of interactive dives at various sites around Scotland which allows the viewer to experience the rich diversity in Scotland's seas first-hand. This is also available as a lower bandwidth version if the high-quality version is not supported.

What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network?

A Marine Protected Area network in Scotland’s Seas is designed to conserve a selection of marine biodiversity (species and habitats) and geodiversity (the variety of landforms and natural processes that underpin the marine landscapes), offering long-term support for the services our seas provide to society.

Marine Scotland has now identified Nature Conservation MPAs in Scotland to either protect a range of biodiversity or geodiversity features in their current state for the future, or to allow them to recover to the state in which they should be in order to remain healthy and productive.

Nature Conservation MPAs have been identified for features (the collective term for species, habitats and geology that is looking to be protected in the MPA network) that Marine Scotland believes require more protection than that offered by existing protected areas.