Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) - site selection: draft guidelines

Guidelines describing the proposed process for identifying and selecting Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in Scottish waters. These were drafted by our statutory nature conservation advisors, NatureScot and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

Annex A - Further details on the 5-stage site selection process

The following information provides further detail to Section 4.2 and Figure 2 on the five key stages in the selection of individual HPMAs in the seas around Scotland.

Stage 1 - Functions and resources of significance to Scotland's seas

The identification of HPMA search locations is based on the presence of functions and/or resources of significance to Scotland's seas. This includes blue carbon and essential fish habitats. Further details are provided in Annex B.

For an area to be identified as a HPMA search location (and pass through to consideration at Stage 2), at least one of the significant functions or resources outlined in Annex B must be present and provide for ecosystem protection and/or recovery. HPMAs allow for carefully managed enjoyment and appreciation but this cannot be the primary or sole purpose of a proposal.

Greater weighting is likely to be given to locations supporting multiple interests (determined through the Stage 2 assessment). All HPMA search locations will be underpinned by a robust evidence-base.

All existing MPAs are considered to support significant resources and functions.

Stage 2 - Potential contribution to HPMA aims

Stage 2 will establish the potential contribution that a search location could make towards achieving the overarching aims of HPMAs. Specifically, this will entail consideration of each search location against the following:

  • a. Ecosystem recovery and enhancement (via pressure removal or restoration)
  • b. Enhancing the benefits that coastal communities and others derive from our seas
  • c. Mitigation of climate change impacts
  • d. Ecosystem adaptation and resilience, including to climate change

More weight will be given to search locations deemed to contribute to a greater number of the aims under Stage 2. However, search locations may still pass through this stage on the basis of a particularly valuable contribution to a single aim.

Stage 3 - Assessing the appropriate scale of the search location

The size and shape of the location will be adapted where necessary to ensure it is suitable for maintaining the integrity of the functions and resources for which it is being considered. This stage will include a review of existing and proposed marine conservation policies and wider marine management to ensure that the use of an HPMA would 'add value'.

Application of Stages 3 and 4 is likely to be iterative. Refinements to the size and shape of the HPMA search location should seek to maximise the contribution of the location while minimising potential impacts (to known activities).

Note that this stage is different to the detailed work to refine MPA boundaries, which will be done only for those sites that pass the subsequent network-level assessment.

Locations might not pass Stage 3 if it is not possible to define a size and shape that will achieve the intended contribution to HPMA aims.

Stage 4 – What would management look like

Stage 4 entails a summary review of available information on existing activities and uses of the location. The descriptive narrative will clearly articulate what the implementation of HPMA management would mean for these different existing uses within the search location.

This qualitative review would be a pre-cursor to the detailed socio-economic impact assessment work commissioned by Marine Scotland.

The purpose of this stage, in combination with Stage 3, is to present evidence-based HPMA options and provide clarity over likely management implications for consideration and discussion with stakeholders.

Locations might not pass Stage 4, for example if there are constraints to achievement of the desired management outcomes.

Stage 5 - People, Planet and Prosperity – recognising the wider contribution

Stage 5 considers the full range of potential benefits that might be realised through the protection of the HPMA search location. This appraisal stage takes account of any refinements to the size and shape of the area as it has passed through the previous stages, and will be informed by anticipated changes to existing activities following introduction of HPMA management.

The location-specific conclusions of the Stage 5 assessments will allow for some prioritisation between search locations, with the identification of those making the greatest potential contributions. Locations offering similar contributions may progress as 'options' for consideration as part of the network level assessment. Comparisons will include a regional dimension to ensure that the locations collectively allow the network assessment to identify a balanced representation of the ecology of Scotland's seas and their geographical spread, from the coast to the deep sea.


Email: HPMA@gov.scot

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