Marine protected areas

30 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were designated on the 7 August 2014 to protect benthic species and habitats such as maerl beds and common skate. By protecting rare, representative and productive species and habitats on the basis of sound science, the rich diversity of life in the waters around Scotland and the benefits they bring can be enjoyed in the future.

Scotland’s seas are extraordinary and provide nurseries and feeding grounds for species that are critical to the marine ecosystem, including commercial fish species. Kelp and seagrass forests and offshore reefs help reduce the effects of storms by acting as a physical buffer. Healthy seas also assist in protecting us from climate change. It is therefore important not just to protect rare, threatened, declining, or nationally representative species and habitats for their own sake, but also for these benefits that are taken for granted

Marine Scotland have various powers to protect these special habitats and species, also known as protected features.

The Marine Protected Area network in Scotland’s seas is designed to conserve a selection of marine biodiversity (species and habitats) and geodiversity (the variety of landforms and natural processes that underpin the marine landscapes), offering long-term support for the services our seas provide to society.

SNH has completed a series of interactive dives at various sites around Scotland which allows the viewer to experience the rich diversity in Scotland's seas first-hand. This is also available as a lower bandwidth version if the high-quality version is not supported.

The Scottish protected areas network has grown considerably since the early 1990s with 185 sites contributing to the Scottish protected areas network in 2016, as demonstrated in the map below. The 31 MPAs will be incorporated into the National Marine Plan and represented in National Marine Plan interactive alongside existing protected areas.

  • Nature Conservation MPA Network Map