Safeguarding Scotland’s marine biodiversity

Proposals to develop Highly Protected Marine Areas launched.

Plans to offer added protection to Scotland’s precious marine biodiversity have been set out.

Views are being sought on proposals that would make Scotland the first country in the world to designate at least 10% of its seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).

Scottish Ministers have also announced their intention to permanently designate the Red Rocks and Longay Marine Protected Area (MPA) within the Inner Sounds of Skye - the largest nursery area for the critically endangered flapper skate.

HPMAs are designed to provide the highest environmental protection from activities such as fishing and aquaculture, as well as infrastructure developments such as new ports, harbours and offshore wind farms.

Consultation feedback will shape the creation of the HPMA network, which is a key Bute House Agreement and Programme for Government 2022/23 commitment.

Launching the plans during the COP15 Biodiversity Summit, Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said:

"Scotland has some of the most beautiful and diverse marine ecosystems on the planet and we are committed to safeguarding them. 

“As we develop this landmark HPMA network consultation I would urge everyone with an interest in our precious marine environment, blue economy and coastal communities, to take part.”

"Marine Protected Areas are an important way to ensure protection of some of the most vulnerable species and habitats, and while launching this new HPMA network consultation, I am also pleased to confirm it is my intention to permanently designate the Red Rocks and Longay MPA, following public consultation, to safeguard the future of the critically endangered flapper skate.

“Scotland’s MPA network extends to over a third of our seas, and I am today setting out how we intend to go even further by designating at least 10% of our seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas – a world-leading commitment.

“Here in Scotland and across the world we are facing a biodiversity crisis and therefore we hope that other countries will match this ambition and commit to protect 30x30 at COP15.” 

Chief Executive of NatureScot Francesca Osowska said:

“We are a nation of coasts and seas, and it is vital that we safeguard these special places. The new highly protected marine areas, which will complement and strengthen the existing Marine Protected Areas network, will help to tackle both the climate change and nature emergencies and meet our goal to achieve net zero in Scotland by 2045. Healthy seas also sustain the livelihoods of thousands of people in Scotland – without this resource, our food, energy and tourism industries would suffer.

“We know these proposals will be of interest to many people throughout Scotland and we look forward to hearing a wide range of views on how we can best safeguard our marine life and habitats and the complex marine ecosystems they are part of, while at the same time securing a sustainable future for all those who use our seas.”


Designating at least 10% of Scotland’s seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas is a Bute House Agreement and Programme for Government 2022/23 commitment. A consultation on the proposals will run until 20 March 2023.

Legislation to permanently designate and provide protection for the Red Rocks and Longay MPA will be introduced to parliament very soon. The MPA was designated urgently by Scottish Minsters in March 2021, following advice from NatureScot and using the powers under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The designation was extended in December 2021


Media enquiries

Back to top