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European Protected Species Background

European Protected Species (EPS) are animals and plants (species listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive) that are afforded protection under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) and the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. All cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoise) are European Protected Species. If any activity is likely to cause disturbance or injury to a European Protected Species a licence is required to undertake the activity legally.

A licence may be granted to undertake such activities if certain strict criteria are met:

  • there is a licensable purpose
  • there are no satisfactory alternatives
  • the actions authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at favourable conservation status in their natural range

Applicants should refer to the guidance on the protection of marine European Protected Species for more detailed information in relation to Scottish inshore waters.

EPS Flowchart

The licensing of Marine European Protected Species in Scotland is shared between several regulators depending on the purpose and location of the activity in question. For activities taking place within 12 nautical miles of the coast (the Scottish Territorial Sea), EPS are protected under the 1994 Regulations. For commercial activities, including geophysical or seismic surveys (including those related to oil and gas), port and harbour developments and the installation of renewable energy devices Marine Scotland (on behalf of the Scottish Ministers) is the licensing authority. For activities relating to scientific research or conservation, Scottish Natural Heritage is the licensing authority.

For activities taking place in Scottish waters beyond 12nm (the Offshore Marine Area), EPS are protected under the 2017 regulations. Marine Scotland (on behalf of the Scottish Ministers) is the licensing authority for all activities except those in relation to certain reserved matters (including oil and gas). Please contact MS-LOT if you require further information in relation to this.