Selection of the proposals
Scotland's seas are internationally recognised as being important for whales and dolphins, which are collectively known as cetaceans, and also for basking sharks. Cetaceans and basking sharks are protected under national and international legislation wherever they occur throughout Scottish waters. Cetaceans are European Protected Species (EPS) meaning they are protected by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 and basking sharks are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The identification of MPAs is based on the best available evidence, as set out in the MPA Selection Guidelines. Each of the four sites was assessed for the presence and quality of MPA search features, whether management of those features could be effective, and what contribution the area would make to the wider MPA network.
The MPA Selection Guidelines state that the role of MPAs for highly mobile species focuses on 'essential areas for key life cycle stages e.g. breeding, feeding, courtship or nursery areas' and 'significant aggregations of mobile species'.
The four MPA proposals were originally identified in 2012. However, additional assessment work was needed to improve the evidence base. A range of activities have been undertaken:
- Habitat modelling;
- Basking shark tagging;
- Risso's dolphin photo-identification; and
- Seabed survey.
As a result of this additional work, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has provided formal advice on the four possible MPA. They have advised that these sites meet the MPA selection guidelines and that they are necessary to progress towards completion of the Scottish MPA network. Details of the SNH advice are provided in the relevant site specific documents. A summary is provided in the site specific section below.
The four possible MPAs would offer additional levels of protection to locations important for the various life stages of these species. They will also provide a mechanism for raising awareness of the value of Scottish waters to these iconic animals and people's enjoyment of them. Including these species also ensures the MPA network is fully representative of features in Scotland and can provide a focus for developing best practice approaches to management.