A world first for conservation of marine life.
Plans to safeguard some of the most iconic species in Scotland’s waters have been announced.
The Scottish Government has proposed four new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which would make Scotland the first country in the world to provide designated areas of protection to minke whale and basking sharks.
Covering a combined area of more than 5,000 sq miles, the new MPAs would also protect Risso’s dolphins and a wide range of biodiversity and geological features.
The Scottish MPA network currently covers 22% of our seas and consists of 231 sites. The network supports nature conservation, protects our historic marine sites and helps develop new approaches to marine management.
Launching a consultation about the plans on World Oceans Day, Minister for the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon said:
“It is our duty to help protect and enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations. Not only are they fundamental to our way of life, they provide habitats for a huge diversity of marine wildlife and it is vital that we ensure appropriate protection for them.
“Scotland’s seas account for 61% of the UK’s waters and are internationally recognised as being important for whales, dolphins and basking sharks. These MPAs would offer additional levels of protection to these species, and ensure the MPA network is fully representative of Scotland’s marine diversity.
“World Oceans Day is the perfect time to celebrate and acknowledge the valuable cultural and economic role of Scotland’s seas and I would urge everyone to consider the evidence that has been presented along with the consultation, and share their views on the expansion of Scotland’s MPA network.”
The 12-week Consultation on proposals to designate four Marine Protected Areas in Scottish waters is a Programme for Government 2018/19 commitment.
The four proposed Marine Protected Areas are:
North-east Lewis: The proposed protected features include Risso’s dolphins and sandeels.
Sea of the Hebrides: The largest of the four proposed MPAs. The proposed protected features are basking shark, minke whale and fronts. Fronts are created by cool nutrient-rich water mixing with shallow warmer water. They are areas of high productivity and create feeding grounds for predators of all shapes and sizes.
Shiant East Bank: Located in the middle of the Minch, the sea which separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland. The proposed protected features include sponge habitats and sea fans, a variety of coral.
Southern Trench. The proposed protected features include minke whale.