Marine environment

Seal haul-out sites

Under Section 117 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, Scottish Ministers, consulting with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), are permitted to designate specific seal haul-out sites to provide additional protection for seals from intentional or reckless harassment.

Seal haul-outs are locations on land where seals come ashore to rest, moult or breed and Marine Scotland has been working closely with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) (on behalf of NERC) to identify suitable sites.

In 2011, an initial list of 146 potential seal haul-out sites was the subject of consultation. These sites were based on a scientific methodology developed by SMRU and approved by NERC. The report on the consultation broadly supported the proposals but included requests for more sites, particularly breeding sites, to be included and for Marine Scotland to provide guidance on harassment.

The original list was revised and as a result a total of 194 seal haul-out sites, including key breeding sites along with a number of additional specific sites proposed by respondents, were designated through The Protection of Seals(Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Order 2014. This came into force on 30 September 2014.

In September 2015, we consulted on a proposed new seal ‘haul-out’ site to be designated under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. This is a recently expanded site for grey seals located at the mouth of the River Ythan. The consultation was looking to establish whether or not the site should be designated and to obtain more information on the risk of harassment at this particular site. Read the analysis of responses report.

The Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017  formally designates the River Ythan haul-out site.

There are maps showing the location of the sites across Scotland and in each of the seal management areas around Scotland, and the individual site maps can be found in the National Marine Plan Interactive (NMPi)

Read questions and answers on the seal haul-out sites in our website archive.

Read information about designated seal haul-out sites.

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