Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the Birds Directive, which requires the Member States of the European Community to identify and classify the most suitable territories, in size and number, for certain rare or vulnerable species (listed in Annex I of the Directive) and for regularly occurring migratory species. SPAs are intended to safeguard the habitats of the species for which they are selected and to protect the birds from significant disturbance.
Scotland is internationally important for many species of wild birds. SPAs represent the most valuable sites for these species and are therefore of great importance in an international context. Presently all of Scotland’s marine SPAs are coastal. They were originally designated to protect the seabird breeding colonies but many have now been extended by up to 4 km in order to protect foraging sites. There are proposals to designate SPAs that are entirely marine in Scottish waters.
Marine Scotland must ensure that the development of wave, tidal and offshore wind energy sectors is achieved in a sustainable manner in the seas around Scotland. Proposed renewable development projects require accurate SPA population estimates during the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process in order to make informed decisions. The report below was produced in order to provide a single source of information on the current SPA breeding population levels specifically for renewables.
The Scottish Government is funding several other research projects designed to assess the potential environmental effects of marine renewable energy.
Information from the Population sizes of seabirds breeding in Scottish SPAs report has been combined with images of the protected species described to create a georeferenced version that can be viewed for free with the Google Earth software.