2.1. Background to the consultation
2.1.1. Roles and responsibilities
Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Scottish Ministers are able to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scottish offshore waters. Scottish Ministers are also obliged to contribute to the UK MPA network. This consultation fulfilled obligations under section 119 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) for the Scottish offshore waters (beyond 12 nautical miles). JNCC provides advice on options for developing site management with the aim of ensuring that the conservation objectives for the protected features are met.
Marine Scotland is a Directorate of the Scottish Government, and considers JNCC's advice and leads on the development of specific measures and discussions with stakeholders. Marine Scotland is responsible for making recommendations to Scottish Ministers on these measures.
Final decisions on site designations and management rest with Scottish Ministers.
The Scottish Government's vision is for a marine environment that is clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse; managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people.
The seas around Scotland and the spectacular wildlife they support are one of our best kept secrets, one that only a very few have had the privilege to explore first hand, but upon which we all depend for our quality of life.
Our seas account for 61% of UK waters and remain at the forefront of our food and energy needs, through fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas, and new industries such as renewable energy, as well as recreation activities and eco-tourism.
Scotland's MPA network is being developed to help safeguard our most important natural and cultural heritage features on the principle of sustainable use. By doing so we are protecting the natural goods and services they provide for current and future generations to enjoy.
The MPA network, as shown in Figure 1, consists of sites designated for nature conservation. In addition to MPAs the network includes areas that: provide nature conservation benefits (called Other Area Based Measures), protect the historic environment (Historic MPAs), and areas for demonstrating or researching marine management. The network currently consists of over 230 sites which protect more than 22% of our seas.
Scottish Ministers have national and international commitments to create a network of MPAs which:
- Contributes to conservation or improvement of the marine environment;
- Represents a range of features present in Scottish waters; and
- Reflects that the conservation of a feature may require the designation of more than one MPA.
2.1.3. The proposal
The deep seas around Scotland are home to some of the most vulnerable habitats and species on earth. Deep-sea ecosystems provide a range of benefits to society, including nutrient cycling and carbon storage. In early 2017 the European Union implemented a new deep-sea fishing regulation which prohibited trawling at depths of greater than 800 metres.
A feasibility assessment looked at two areas of search (West of Scotland and Faroe-Shetland) where water depths are greater than 800 metres. The Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines were applied by JNCC resulting in scientific advice on the two areas. Based on this information, which showed that West of Scotland would increase the number of vulnerable species in the Scottish MPA network and make a significant contribution to the OSPAR MPA network, Scottish Ministers decided to proceed with consultation on the West of Scotland site only. The Faroe-Shetland area is not under any further consideration.
The West of Scotland site was termed a 'deep sea marine reserve' during the consultation. If designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 the site will be an MPA, therefore it was a possible MPA (pMPA) at consultation. In this report, the terms 'deep sea marine reserve' and 'West of Scotland pMPA' are both used to refer to the site.
The West of Scotland pMPA covers 107,718 km2 of a diverse marine landscape to the west of Scotland; from the steep gradient of the continental slope across the sediment plains of the Rockall Trough, to the slopes of George Bligh Bank and Rockall Bank, with two isolated seamounts (Anton Dohrn and Rosemary Bank) as shown in Figure 2 below. The proposed protected features of the site are;
- Burrowed mud (including sea pens)
- Coral gardens
- Cold-water coral reefs (including Lophelia pertusa reefs)
- Deep sea sponge aggregations
- Offshore deep sea muds
- Offshore subtidal sands and gravels
- Seamount communities
- Blue ling (Molva dypterygia)
- Leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus)
- Gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus)
- Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
- Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis)
- Roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris)
- Scour moats
- Sediment drifts
- Sediment wave field
- Bioherm reefs
- Biogenic sediment mounds
- Parasitic cones
- Slide scars
- Slide deposit
- Seamount (Palaeogene igneous centre)
- Erosional scour fields
- Iceberg ploughmarks
- Large bank (Palaeogene igneous centre)
- Small scale ridges
- turbidite accumulations
- Prograding wedge
- Ice-proximal and ice-contact facies (e.g. mega-scale glacial lineations)
- Sub-glacial tills
- Ice-distal and glacimarine facies.
- Continental slope turbidite canyons
If the West of Scotland pMPA were designated it would protect all the features currently protected in the Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA. Therefore Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA would be revoked. However the Anton Dohrn Seamount Special Area of Conservation (SAC), designated under the EU Habitats Directive, would be left in place as it protects rocky reef habitats (which are not a feature of the West of Scotland pMPA). The extent of the Anton Dohrn Seamount is within the West of Scotland pMPA.
2.2. Format of the consultation
Scottish Government held a public consultation on the proposals from 27 September 2019 to 31 December 2019. Views were invited on five questions in relation to the West of Scotland pMPA. These questions were:
1. Do you support the designation of the West of Scotland deep sea marine reserve?
2. Do you agree that the scientific evidence presented justifies the case for the designation?
3. Do you have any comments on the Conservation objectives and management advice?
4. Do you have any comments on the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment?
5. Do you have any comments on the Sustainability Appraisal, including the Environmental Report and the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment?
In order to help respondents answer these questions, the following supporting information was available:
- Ecological overview;
- Data confidence assessment of the scientific evidence;
- Methods document: the shore list of proposed protected features;
- Conservation objectives and management advice;
- Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA).
- Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA);
- Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA); and
- Sustainability Appraisal, combining environmental, social and economic effects.
2.3. Respondents to the consultation
In total, 44 official consultation responses were received, either through email or through the Citizen Space consultation portal.
A breakdown of the respondent categories can be found in section 3.2.1. and a full list of organisations which responded is in Annex A.
2.4. Format of this consultation report
This consultation report comprises of two parts; a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the consultation responses (section 3), and a discussion of the main themes contained within responses including the Scottish Government response (section 4).
The quantitative analysis work was commissioned by Scottish Government to provide clear information about the themes contained within the responses and the expectations of the Scottish people about these proposals.
The discussion section allows Scottish Government and JNCC to provide background and additional information on points requiring clarity, explain changes made because of responses, and explain areas which are outwith the scope of this consultation. The discussion section does not include consideration of every comment made however the most relevant themes mentioned by multiple responses are included.