Marine environment

Priority Marine Features

In 2014, 81 Priority Marine Features (PMFs) were identified in the seas around Scotland. The list, which covers a variety of habitats and species that are a priority for conservation in Scotland’s seas, was developed by Marine Scotland, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Read more about Priority Marine Features.

While many of these are protected through the existing network of Marine Protected Areas, others occur outside of these areas. Marine Scotland is therefore considering the implementation of management measures to protect the most vulnerable PMFs in Scottish inshore waters (within 6 nautical miles from shore), to ensure that development and use of the marine environment does not have a significant effect on their national status. 

The 11 PMFs identified are:

  • Blue mussel beds
  • Cold water coral reefs
  • Fan mussel aggregations
  • Flame shell beds
  • Horse mussel beds
  • Maerl beds
  • Maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers
  • Native oysters
  • Northern sea fan and sponge communities
  • Seagrass beds
  • Serpulid aggregations

This work is at an early stage, and a consultation on the Screening and Scoping report – setting out what options will be assessed and the evidence that will be used – was launched on 5 July 2018.  Read the outcomes of the consultation including supporting information.

Following this public consultation, we commissioned a Sustainability Appraisal which looked at proposed measures for the 11 most vulnerable features and assessed the potential positive and negative effects from both an environmental and socio-economic perspective. Following a pre-consultation workshop in Edinburgh on 01 October 2019, Marine Scotland is now undertaking a series of stakeholder meetings to further refine management proposals in advance of public consultation for the final PMF management measures.

During stakeholder discussions about PMF measures, we are also discussing proposed management measures for Marine Protected Areas in our inshore waters. Discussions and consultation for proposed MPA management options are being taken forward together with PMF management proposals as these projects follow the same timelines.

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