Views sought over proposals for five new offshore SPAs.
The Scottish Government has launched a consultation, led by Scottish Natural Heritage, on establishing five new offshore Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
The proposals cover more than 18,000 square kilometres (7,000 square miles) of sea and furthers existing protection for unique and iconic seabirds and their habitats.
Four of the SPAs are located solely in Scottish waters, including parts of the Pentland Firth and the seas off St Kilda, with a fifth site extending coverage in the Solway Firth being jointly led by Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England.
This announcement comes shortly after consultations closed on 3 October on proposals for an additional 10 onshore SPAs. Together these 15 SPAs would safeguard the long-term health of 31 species of seabirds, including gannets, puffins and Great Skuas.
Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said:
“Scotland’s seas are a vast and rich natural resource and it is vital that we keep them healthy and protected for current and future generations to enjoy and benefit from.
“Much of our coastline and the surrounding seas are a globally important habitat for many bird species, providing food, a place to rear young, and winter refuge. This government is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for our precious yet vulnerable marine habitat.
“The proposed SPAs are now going out to consultation and we want to hear as many views as possible, to ensure that they fulfil our aims to protect our iconic seabirds.”
The five proposed offshore SPAs are located:
• Outer Firth of Forth and St Andrews Bay Complex
• Pentland Firth
• Seas off Foula
• Seas off St Kilda
• An extension of coverage in the Solway Firth (jointly led by SNH and Natural England)
Scotland is home to 9,700 Great Skua nests, over half of total number of the world’s breeding sites, over 240,000 pairs of gannets, which is over 70% of the global population, as well as half a million puffins which is the majority of the UK population
The consultation on marine Special Protection Areas can be accessed via: http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-areas/proposed-marine-spas/