Under Section 117 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, Scottish Ministers, consulting with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), are permitted to designate specific seal haul-out sites to provide additional protection for seals from intentional or reckless harassment.
Seal haul-outs are locations on land where seals come ashore to rest, moult or breed and Marine Scotland has been working closely with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) (on behalf of NERC) to identify suitable sites.
In 2011, an initial list of 146 potential seal haul-out sites was the subject of consultation. These sites were based on a scientific methodology developed by SMRU and approved by NERC. The report on the consultation broadly supported the proposals but included requests for more sites, particularly breeding sites, to be included and for Marine Scotland to provide guidance on harassment.
The original list was revised and as a result a total of 194 seal haul-out sites, including key breeding sites along with a number of additional specific sites proposed by respondents, were designated through The Protection of Seals(Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Order 2014. This came into force on 30 September 2014.
In September 2015, the Scottish Government launched a Consultation on a proposed new seal ‘haul-out’ site to be designated under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. This is a recently expanded site for grey seals located at the mouth of the River Ythan. The consultation was looking to establish whether or not the site should be designated and to obtain more information on the risk of harassment at this particular site. The consultation closed on 4 December 2015 and the analysis of responses report is now available to download.
The Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017 which formally designates the River Ythan haul-out site was laid in Parliament on 9 March 2017. Subject to parliamentary approval it will come into force on 4 May 2017.
Links to the consultation reports and responses are available:
There are maps showing the location of the sites across Scotland and in each of the seal management areas around Scotland, and the individual site maps can be found in the National Marine Plan Interactive (NMPi). A full list is also available.
A map showing the Ythan Haul-Out site is available below as well as on NMPi.
For more information, a series of frequently asked questions and answers on the seal haul-out sites has been produced.
A topic sheet providing information about designated seal haul-out sites has also been produced.