Scotland has 11 offshore SACs at present. Under Article 6 of the EU Habitats Directive member states are obliged to prevent deterioration of the protected feature(s) of the site(s). In addition there are 13 offshore MPAs, and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires management action to be taken to ensure that achievement of the conservation objectives is not hindered. These MPAs are considered necessary to comply with Article 13(4) of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Further information on the UK network of offshore protected areas along with a detailed map of the UK sites can be found on the JNCC website.
The Common Fisheries Policy permits vessels from other member states, and also third countries like Norway, to fish in Scottish waters. Therefore when fisheries management measures are required to protect offshore sites member states must submit a proposal for measures to the European Commission (EC). This process involves working with other member states who have a direct management interest to develop suitable management proposals.
The EC has issued guidance on the development of such measures. It sets out 11 information requirements which should be fulfilled in any application. These requirements guide the process.
Five offshore sites are already considered to be well managed from a fisheries perspective.
A proposal for Stanton Banks SAC has been developed as part of a pilot process and is now ready for formal negotiations with other member states.
Proposals for the other 18 sites were subject to consultation with member states and the advisory councils between September and November 2016.
Meetings with Member States and Advisory Councils to discuss the proposals were held on 20 and 27 October 2016 in Edinburgh.
The proposals were also presented to the North Sea and North Western Waters Advisory Councils at their respective meetings in Spring 2017.
Updated proposals for the other 18 sites were published in April 2017 and a request sent to other member states asking them to confirm that the proposals had sufficient information to proceed to the formal negotiation stage.