European Protected Species and basking sharks

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; and
  • 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.

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 Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended). 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, NatureScot is the licensing authority.

For activities taking place in Scottish waters beyond 12nm (the Offshore Marine Area), EPS are protected under The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. 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 the Marine Scotland - Licensing Operations Team if you require further information in relation to this.

Additionally, if an activity taking place in the Scottish Territorial Sea is likely to cause to disturbance or injury to basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus), a licence is required to undertake activity legally. Marine Scotland (on behalf of the Scottish Ministers) is the licensing authority for commercial activities under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). For activities relating to scientific research or conservation, NatureScot is the licensing authority.

Applications and guidance: