The Scottish Government has responsibility for the conservation and protection of all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) within Scottish waters.
All cetaceans are protected under the EU Habitats Directive, which makes it an offence to deliberately capture, kill or recklessly disturb cetaceans. A Special Area of Conservation (SAC) has been established in the Moray Firth to protect the local population of bottlenose dolphins. A consultation on an SAC for Harbour Porpoise is currently under way.
The Scottish Government has produced guidance for marine users on the Protection of European Protected Species from injury and disturbance for Scottish Inshore Waters.
The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 contained provisions for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to create a Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code which sets out recommendations, advice and information relating to commercial and leisure activities involving the watching of marine wildlife. In particular, the Code contains information on:
- activities which are likely to disturb marine wildlife;
- the circumstances in which marine wildlife may be approached; and
- the manner in which marine wildlife may best be viewed with minimum disturbance