Coll and Tiree Special Protection Area: business and regulatory impact assessment

An assessment of the business and regulatory impacts of classifying the Coll and Tiree Special Protection Area.


The Scottish Government is committed to a clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environment that meets the long term needs of people and nature. In order to meet this commitment our seas must be managed in a sustainable manner - balancing the competing demands on marine resources. Biological and geological diversity must be protected to ensure our future marine ecosystem is capable of providing the economic and social benefits it yields today.

The EU Wild Birds Directive (2009/147/EC as codified) requires Member States to classify as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) the most suitable territories for wild birds. Building on the work of the SPA Review Working Group and taking account of existing guidelines on the identification of SPAs (JNCC, 1999), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have identified 14 sites which they consider essential for marine SPA status. These proposals include sites supporting wintering waterfowl, important areas for red throated divers, terns, European shag and foraging seabirds.

The Coll and Tiree Special Protection Area largely surrounds the closely adjacent islands of Coll and Tiree off the coast of Argyll.

The site supports a population of European importance of the following Annex 1 species:

  • Great northern diver (Gavia immer)

It also supports a migratory population of European importance of the following species:

  • Common eider (Somateria mollissima)

Coll and Tiree lie relatively close to the mainland coast of Argyll and the island of Mull (less than 14 kilometres (km) away) in a north-east/south-west direction. Parts of the coastline of Coll are rocky interspersed with extensive sandy bays and soft shores whilst Tiree has an even greater extent of sandy beaches and machair (Barne et al. 1997). Offshore of both islands the sediments are consequently a mixture of mud, sand and gravel. The waters immediately offshore are shallow, generally less than 20 metres (m) in depth, with depth only increasing steadily to 120m some distance off the western shores, forming excellent habitat for over wintering waterfowl.

A wide variety of pelagic and demersal fish occur in the marine habitats around the islands as well as many invertebrates including both crustaceans and bivalve molluscs, all of which form potential prey for marine waterbirds.

Great northern divers feed on a wide variety of fish as well as opportunistically on crustaceans. They are capable of diving to considerable depths with figures of 55m recorded in pursuit of their prey underwater (Ropert-Coudert et al 2016). The fish species taken will be influenced by what is locally most readily available, but can include haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus, cod Gadus morhua, herring Clupea harengus, sprats Sprattus sprattus and gurnard Eutrigla gurnardus along with smaller species such as sand-eels Ammodytidae, pipefish Syngathidae, gobies Gobiidae, flatfish Pleuronectidae and butterfish Pholis gunnellus.

Common eider feed almost exclusively on molluscs and small crustaceans, diving from the surface to pluck their prey from the seabed.

Eider more typically feed at depths not exceeding 15m.

Great northern divers are long distance migrants, moving annually between northern breeding grounds and more southerly wintering grounds such as those in the Coll and Tiree SPA. Eider are resident in this area throughout the year.



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