Publication - Report

Planning Scotland's Seas: 2013 - Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Consultation Overview - Strategic Environmental Assessment Report

Published: 19 Aug 2013
Part of:
Marine and fisheries
ISBN:
9781782568070

This report summarises the findings from a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the possible Marine Protected Areas (pMPAs).

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

Contents
Planning Scotland's Seas: 2013 - Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Consultation Overview - Strategic Environmental Assessment Report
Non-Technical Summary

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

Non-Technical Summary

Introduction

1. The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 call for the designation of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs) in Scottish waters, to protect marine biodiversity and geodiversity and to contribute to a UK and international network of MPAs. Work to satisfy these requirements has been underway since 2010. The Scottish Government received advice from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee ( JNCC) and Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) on 33 MPA proposals and four search locations in December 2012. SNH and JNCC have advised that between 29 and 33 of these locations should be included in the network.

2. The Scottish Government is proposing that these original 33 MPA proposals now be considered for designation as possible Marine Protected Areas ( pMPAs), to supplement existing protected areas for marine species and habitats, and to create a wider network of Marine Protected Areas [1] . The pMPAs are located in both Scottish territorial waters (0-12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12-200 nautical miles) ( Figure 1).

Figure 1. Nautical Limits around Scotland

Figure 1. Nautical Limits around Scotland

What is Strategic Environmental Assessment?

3. This report summarises the findings from a strategic environmental assessment ( SEA) of the possible Marine Protected Areas ( pMPAs). SEA of the pMPAs is required by the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. Given that the possible MPAs are located in both Scottish territorial and offshore waters, it was decided that (on a voluntary basis) the SEA should also meet the requirements of The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.

4. SEA identifies the likely significant environmental impacts of plans and policies, and alternatives to them. Taking place at an early stage in the plan or policy preparation process, it ensures that decision-making is informed by relevant environmental information. SEA provides opportunities for the public to consider this information and use it to inform their views on the draft plan or policy.

5. A socio-economic assessment has also been undertaken, which comprises:

  • for each of the pMPAs, a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment ( BRIA); and
  • for the network as a whole, the results of the socio-economic assessment have been combined with the SEA to provide a Sustainability Appraisal, which is provided in a separate Sustainability Appraisal Report.

What are the possible Marine Protected Areas?

6. As well as the powers to designate MPAs, the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 require that a network of MPAs in UK seas is created to protect biodiversity and geodiversity. The network will contribute to agreements with international partners to create an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs in the north-east Atlantic. The key overall objective of the MPA network is to safeguard the most important natural and cultural heritage features in Scottish waters, based on the principle of sustainable use [2] .

7. Marine Scotland is working in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee ( JNCC), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) and Historic Scotland ( HS). SNH and JNCC have provided joint scientific advice [3] (as statutory nature conservation bodies) on existing protected areas and other area-based measures that contribute to the network, and have identified possible Nature Conservation MPAs that could form part of a network to protect biodiversity and geodiversity. A significant part of the work underlying this advice has been based around ensuring that network and feature coverage satisfies the OSPAR principles of developing an ecologically coherent network.

8. Thirty-three possible Nature Conservation MPAs have been identified, and a further four MPA search locations remain to be fully assessed ( Table 1 and Figure 2). The evolving MPA network in Scotland's seas builds on the existing network of protected areas, which includes Special Areas of Conservation ( SACs); Special Protection Areas ( SPAs); Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSIs), and fisheries management areas. More information on these other designations and sites is provided in the SNH/ JNCC advice [3] .

9. The focus of the possible MPAs, reflected in their conservation objectives ( Table 1), is to either:

  • protect a range of biodiversity or geodiversity features in their current state for the future, or
  • to allow them to recover to the state they should be to remain healthy and productive.

10. The pMPAs will be managed to achieve their conservation objectives, using the principle of sustainable use. This means that only activities that present a risk of hindering the achievement of the conservation objectives will have specific management measures implemented.

11. Management options papers have been produced for each of the pMPAs. These papers use a risk-based approach to identify management options, based on the protected features, the conservation objectives, and the activities which could affect their condition. Management options are a key element of the consultation, which provides opportunities for stakeholders to present their views, including their practical environmental knowledge and activity data.

Historic MPAs

12. Scotland's first Historic Marine Protected Area ( HMPA) was designated on 18 March 2013, to protect an historic wreck close to the harbour of Drumbeg, Sutherland ( Figure 5). On the same day, Historic Scotland also launched a consultation to make the Drumbeg designation permanent, and to designate a further six HMPAs. These comprise historic wreck sites currently designated under section 1 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

13. In 2013-14, Historic Scotland is progressing consideration of an HMPA for Scapa Flow's outstanding underwater heritage. This will involve review and transition to HMPA status for the seven intact wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919, currently scheduled monuments, and consideration of any other underwater sites relating to Scapa Flow's wartime naval heritage for inclusion in an HMPA proposal for consultation in 2014 ( Figure 5). A small number of other high priority sites may be considered for designation as HMPAs before 2015.

Figure 2. Possible Nature Conservation MPAs and search locations in Scotland's seas

Figure 2 Possible Nature Conservation MPAs and search locations in Scotland's seas

Table 1. Protected Features - Biodiversity and Geodiversity - for each pMPA

Name Code Protected features Conservation objective
Territorial waters
Clyde Sea Sill CSS Biodiversity protected features - Black guillemot; circalittoral sand and coarse sediment communities; fronts
Geodiversity protected features - Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed - sand banks, sand ribbon fields, sand wave fields
conserve
East Caithness Cliffs ECC Biodiversity protected features - Black guillemot conserve
Fetlar to Haroldswick FTH Biodiversity protected features - Black guillemot; circalittoral sand and coarse sediment communities; horse mussel beds; kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediments; maerl beds; shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves
Geodiversity protected features
- Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed
conserve
Loch Creran LCR Biodiversity protected features - Flame shell beds
Geodiversity protected features - Quaternary of Scotland
conserve
Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh DLA Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud, flame shell beds conserve
Loch Sunart LSU Biodiversity protected features - Flame shell beds; northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata; serpulid aggregations conserve
Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura SJU Biodiversity protected features - Common skate
Geodiversity protected features
- Quaternary of Scotland
conserve
Loch Sween LSW Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; maerl beds; native oysters; sublittoral mud and mixed sediment communities conserve
Monach Isles MOI Biodiversity protected features - Black guillemot
Geodiversity protected features
- Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed; Quaternary of Scotland - landscape of areal glacial scour
conserve
Mousa to Boddam MTB Biodiversity protected features - Sandeels Geodiversity protected features - Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed conserve
North-west sea lochs and Summer Isles NWS Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; circalittoral muddy sand communities; flame shell beds; kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediments; maerl beds; maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers; northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata
Geodiversity protected features
- Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed - banks of unknown substrate; Quaternary of Scotland - glaciated channels/troughs, megascale glacial lineations, moraines; Seabed Fluid and Gas Seep - pockmarks; Submarine Mass Movement - slide scars
recover flame shell beds and maerl beds conserve other features
Noss Head NOH Biodiversity protected features - Horse mussel beds conserve
Papa Westray PWY Biodiversity protected features - Black guillemot
Geodiversity protected features
- Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed - sand wave field
conserve
Small Isles SMI Biodiversity protected features - Black guillemot; burrowed mud, circalittoral sand and mud communities; fan mussel aggregations; horse mussel beds; northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata; northern sea fan and sponge communities; shelf deeps; white cluster anemones
Geodiversity protected features
- Quaternary of Scotland - glaciated channels/troughs, glacial lineations, meltwater channels, moraines, rock basins, streamlined bedforms
conserve
South Arran ARR Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; herring spawning grounds; kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediments; maerl beds; maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers; ocean quahog; seagrass beds; shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves recover maerl beds conserve other features
Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil LFG Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; flame shell beds; horse mussel beds; ocean quahog; sublittoral mud and mixed sediment communities recover flame shell beds conserve other features
Wyre and Rousay Sounds WYR Biodiversity protected features - Kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment; maerl beds
Geodiversity protected features
- Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed
conserve
Offshore waters
Central Fladen CFL Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud
Geodiversity protected features
- Quaternary of Scotland - sub-glacial tunnel valley
conserve
East of Gannet and Montrose Fields EGM Biodiversity protected features - Ocean quahog aggregations (including sands and gravels as their supporting habitat); offshore deep sea muds conserve
Faroe-Shetland sponge belt FSS Biodiversity protected features - Continental slope; deep-sea sponge aggregations; ocean quahog aggregations; offshore subtidal sands and gravels
Geodiversity protected features
- Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Deep Ocean Seabed - sand wave field, sediment wave field; Quaternary of Scotland - continental slope channels; iceberg ploughmark fields, prograding wedges; Submarine Mass Movement - slide deposits
conserve
Firth of Forth Banks Complex FOF Biodiversity protected features - Ocean quahog aggregations; offshore subtidal sands and gravels; shelf banks and mounds
Geodiversity protected features
- Quaternary of Scotland - moraines
conserve
Geikie Slide and Hebridean slope GSH Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; continental slope; offshore deep-sea muds, offshore subtidal sands and gravels
Geodiversity protected features
- Submarine Mass Movement - slide deposits, slide scars
conserve
Hatton-Rockall Basin HRB Biodiversity protected features - Deep-sea sponge aggregations; offshore deep-sea muds
Geodiversity protected features - Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Deep Ocean Seabed - sediment drifts; Polygonal fault systems
conserve
North-east Faroe Shetland Channel NEF Biodiversity protected features - Continental slope; deep-sea sponge aggregations; offshore deep-sea muds; offshore subtidal sands and gravels
Geodiversity protected features
- Cenozoic Structures of the Atlantic Margin - mud diapirs; Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Deep Ocean Seabed - contourite sand/silt; Quaternary of Scotland - prograding wedge; Submarine Mass Movement - slide deposits
conserve
North-west Orkney NWO Biodiversity protected features - Sandeels
Geodiversity protected features -
Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed - sand bank, sand wave field, sediment wave fields
conserve
Norwegian boundary sediment plain NSP Biodiversity protected features - Ocean quahog aggregations (including sands and gravels as their supporting habitat), offshore subtidal sands and gravels conserve
Rosemary Bank Seamount RBS Biodiversity protected features - Deep-sea sponge aggregations; seamount features; seamount communities
Geodiversity protected features -
Cenozoic Structures of the Atlantic Margin - Rosemary Bank Seamount; Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Deep Ocean Seabed - scour moats, sediment drifts, sediment wave fields; Quaternary of Scotland - iceberg ploughmark field; Submarine Mass Movement - slide scars
conserve
South-east Fladen SEF Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud
Geodiversity protected features -
Seabed Fluid and Gas Seep - pockmarks
conserve
South-west Sula Sgeir and Hebridean slope SSH Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; continental slope; offshore deep-sea muds; offshore subtidal sands and gravels Geodiversity protected features - Quaternary of Scotland - iceberg ploughmark fields, prograding wedges; Submarine Mass Movement - slide deposits conserve
The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount BHT Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud; continental slope; offshore deep-sea muds; offshore subtidal sands and gravels; orange roughy; seamount; seamount communities
Geodiversity protected features -
Cenozoic Structures of the Atlantic Margin - continental slope, Hebrides Terrace Seamount; Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Deep Ocean Seabed - scour moat; Quaternary of Scotland - iceberg ploughmark field, prograding wedges; Submarine Mass Movement - continental slope turbidite canyons, slide deposits
conserve
Turbot Bank TBB Biodiversity protected features - Sandeels, offshore subtidal sands and gravels, shelf banks and mounds conserve
West Shetland Shelf WSS Biodiversity protected features - Offshore subtidal sands and gravels conserve
Western Fladen WFL Biodiversity protected features - Burrowed mud
Geodiversity protected features
- Quaternary of Scotland - sub-glacial tunnel valleys
conserve

How was the Strategic Environmental Assessment undertaken?

14. This is a strategic-level appraisal of the possible MPAs, which broadly assesses their expected effects. A series of key questions ('strategic environmental assessment objectives') is used to structure the assessment. Information about the existing marine environment has been used to inform the appraisal and define these appraisal objectives. The appraisal identifies the individual and collective effects of the draft plan's policies and objectives on: marine biodiversity, flora and fauna (including the ecological and/or environmental status of water bodies); marine geodiversity; and climatic factors. Social and economic effects, including those on other users of the marine environment, have been assessed by the socio-economic assessment.

15. The SEA identifies positive and negative effects, including 'cumulative' effects. The assessment has been systematic, and the findings are recorded in a series of tables. The significant impacts are described in detail in the Environmental Report.

Which reasonable alternatives have been assessed?

Alternative proposals

16. The MPA identification and selection process has used a science-led approach. Science has been the primary consideration in the selection of sites. Socio-economic evidence will be considered when the ecological coherence of the network has been met. Ministers also have a power to take account of socio-economic impacts that may arise from a MPA designation.

17. The different steps have considered alternatives and made key decisions all the way through the process. Some of these key decisions have included:

  • amendments to pMPA boundaries
  • changes to the "drivers" for identifying pMPAs
  • removal of features from some pMPA proposals
  • addition of features to some pMPA proposals
  • moving features from one pMPA to another
  • progressing requests for additional survey information and/or research to underpin pMPAs

18. Further details are provided in SNH/ JNCC's advice to the Scottish Government. Stakeholder engagement has been a key part of this MPA process.

19. For certain features there are different options for representing them in the network. The consultation overview document and the Environmental Report contain details of science-based alternatives to represent offshore subtidal sands and gravels, ocean quahog and shelf banks and mounds in OSPAR Region II. There are also ecologically equivalent options for burrowed mud in OSPAR Region II.

20. Four areas that have yet to be assessed fully remain as MPA search locations ( Figure 2). This is to enable further work to be completed on one or more of the relevant MPA search features before SNH provides its formal advice to Scottish Ministers in 2014. The remaining work relates primarily to mobile species features including minke whale, Risso's dolphin and basking shark. The Southern Trench MPA search location also encompasses the burrowed mud feature.

Alternative Approaches

21. It has been suggested that identification of a coherent ecological network should be delayed, at least until the assessment of the four search locations is complete. The challenge of taking forward the network in the light of existing gaps in the scientific evidence is acknowledged. However, it should be noted that an iterative approach (including refinement of the pMPAs) is a cornerstone of this work, and that the six-year review cycle will facilitate the continued collection of environmental data and activity information. It will also facilitate amendment of pMPA boundaries in response to pressures and changes resulting from both natural variability and human activities. In addition, such a delay would result in significant uncertainty for the marine economic sector. Scottish Ministers are of the view that this work should be progressed, noting that it has taken a precautionary stance.

22. The conservation objectives for the possible MPAs focus on the protection of biodiversity or geodiversity features, or their recovery. An alternative approach would be to restore and/or enhance features. This possibility was reviewed in the early stages of the process. It was felt that there is insufficient clear evidence to support an objective to "restore". For example, changes to features are not always the result of anthropogenic pressures: natural processes, which are inherently variable ( e.g. in the weather) play a significant role in this. In addition, a "restore" objective would require information about the historic condition of a feature, and this evidence is rarely available. It was therefore decided to utilise the "conserve" and "recover" objectives, as appropriate and on a site-by-site basis, for each of the features.

What is the current state of the environment?

23. Scotland's seas are among the most biologically diverse and productive in the world, supporting an estimated 6,500 species of marine animals and plants.

24. Scotland's marine biodiversity is protected by a range of European, UK and Scottish-level designations. Key habitat types include estuaries; lagoons; large shallow inlets and bays; mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide; reefs; sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time; submarine structures made by leaking gases; and submerged or partially submerged sea caves. Key animal species include cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), seals, seabirds, fish (including sharks, skates and rays) and turtles.

25. Scotland's seas are mostly classed as being of good or high status under the Water Framework Directive (out to three nautical miles). Some of the pressures on coastal waters and estuaries include low oxygen levels, elevated growth of algae, human effects on the morphological characteristics of water bodies ( e.g. construction of sea defences) or the condition of benthic invertebrate populations.

26. Climate change is predicted to lead to an increase in water temperature and acidity, a rise in sea levels, changes in wave heights and changes to coastlines. Climate change is already having an impact on weather patterns. Changes in temperature, levels and timing of rainfall, and more extreme weather events are all expected, affecting other aspects of the environment.

27. Scottish waters are quite different between the east and west coasts. The east coast presents mostly uniform depths and shallow inclines interspersed with localised trenches, while the seabed off Scotland's west coast shelves steeply away from the coast, and deep waters occur relatively close to the land.

28. In general, the marine sediments around Scotland are sandy or gravelly and originate from deposits during the Quaternary glaciation. Muddy sediments are located principally near-shore or, if further offshore, in depressions on the sea floor where currents may be relatively weak.

29. Marine geodiversity in Scottish waters is representative of the geological processes that have influenced the evolution and present day morphology of the Scottish seabed. Eight categories of geodiversity interests have been identified in Scottish waters:

  • Quaternary of Scotland;
  • Submarine Mass Movement;
  • Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Deep Ocean Seabed;
  • Seabed Fluid and Gas Seep;
  • Cenozoic Structures of the Atlantic Margin;
  • Marine Geomorphology of the Scottish Shelf Seabed;
  • Coastal Geomorphology of Scotland; and
  • Biogenic Structures of the Scottish Seabed

Pressures

30. There are many pressures on Scotland's seas. An example of some of the pressures on marine biodiversity is provided in Box 1.

Box 1. Pressures on marine biodiversity

Commercial fishing:
  • removal of target fish species may affect the sustainability of fish stocks
  • discards of fish are a waste of the resource, and also encourage scavenger species
  • bycatch inadvertently catches both non-target fish and other species, generally leading to the death of individuals and subsequent decline in populations
  • the seabed and its benthic habitat may be damaged by mobile fishing gear, with the consequent loss of marine plants and animals
  • removal of target species may also decrease the availability of prey species, leading to declines in populations e.g. of birds
Non-native invasive species may outcompete native species, thereby displacing them from the marine environment. Marine litter can result in the injury and/or death of marine animals. Climate change, through increasing sea temperatures, acidification, changes to rainfall patterns, etc:
  • may result in populations of marine animals and plants moving further north
  • may give rise to population decline
  • may result in new competitors arriving in Scottish waters, including non-native invasive species

What are the likely significant environmental effects of the possible MPAs?

31. This SEA has undertaken a high-level assessment of the pMPAs. A summary is provided in the following paragraphs.

Marine Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

32. The pMPAs will have benefits for biodiversity, flora and fauna. This is their key purpose, with a focus on specific features (identified in Table 1), and the benefit of designation will primarily accrue to these features.

33. The key pressures associated with marine activities include:

  • surface abrasion and damage. For example, in demersal fishing, mobile/active gear (trawls, dredges, etc) makes contact with and moves along the surface of the seabed and can result in surface abrasion and/or damage. Surface abrasion can also be caused by anchorages/moorings (recreational and commercial), although the effects tend to be more localised.
  • siltation rate changes, e.g. associated with marine disposal of dredged material and with aquaculture
  • contact with the seabed, e.g. fishing using static gear. Often the issue here is the intensity of the activity. The use of static gear at moderate intensity is not an issue for most features. The issue comes with high intensity and concentration of static gear, e.g. creels/pots.
  • risk of injury and/or death to mobile species. For example, the use of set nets ( e.g. fyke, gill, trammel or tangle) may entangle black guillemot. Of highest risk to black guillemot would be set nets around kelp forests which are widely used for feeding. Offshore renewable energy devices also pose a risk of collision to mobile species.
  • organic enrichment, e.g. pressures associated with aquaculture

34. In general, species that use benthic habitat for spawning ( e.g. herring), growth and/or refuge will also benefit from the reduction and/or removal of these pressures. There are also likely to be benefits to biodiversity through increased nutrient cycling, as a result of the actions of burrowing animals.

35. Displacement of marine activities, as a result of pMPA designation, is a key concern of stakeholders. Displacement could result from the introduction of measures to manage pMPAs, and these management measures may have consequences for the environment:

  • Where no management measures are recommended, this would result in continuation of the status quo. Small-scale, local effects may occur but these are unlikely to be significant. (If they were significant, management measures would have been recommended.)
  • Where the recommendation is to reduce/limit pressures, this may result in amendments to current practices.
  • Where the recommendation is to remove/avoid pressures, this may result in the activity being discontinued or displacement of the activity to another location. This could result in new pressures in this location or an intensification of already-existing pressures.

36. The following marine activities have been reviewed for the SEA, in terms of the sensitivities of MPA features to these activities and the potential for management measures:

  • marine disposal
  • commercial fishing (mobile gear; static gear; diver-operated gear)
  • infrastructure (renewables; oil and gas; cables)
  • aquaculture (finfish; shellfish)
  • moorings/ anchorages

37. Very few of the biodiversity features are not sensitive to at least one of the marine activities identified in paragraph 36, and management measures have been proposed for all the features potentially affected. (Few, if any, measures have been recommended for the management of geodiversity features.) Figure 3 shows the results. Features which are highly sensitive to marine activities are shown as primarily blue, e.g. serpulid aggregations, seamount communities. Those with low sensitivity are shown as primarily green, e.g. white cluster anemones. Most features, however, are more sensitive to certain activities than others. Black guillemot, for example, are highly sensitive to a limited number of activities (in this case, the risk of entanglement in static fishing nets). Flame shell beds, maerl beds, native oysters have a high sensitivity to some activities, medium sensitivity to others, and low sensitivity to the remainder.

Figure 3. Sensitivity of pMPA features to marine activities (identified in paragraph 37)

Figure 3 Sensitivity of pMPA features to marine activities

38. The activities which appear to have the greatest potential to result in displacement comprise:

  • commercial fishing using bottom-contact mobile gear, particularly hydraulic gear;
  • commercial fishing using diver-operated hydraulic gear; and
  • some use of static gear.

39. Some uncertainties remain, particularly with features where the recommendation has been to reduce and/or limit the pressure. Much of this uncertainty focuses around the type of measure to be employed, be it spatial and/or temporal restriction, or changes to gear types or target species.

40. Review of the potential for displacement has demonstrated the following:

  • Designation of some pMPA features does not appear to require management measures, and these would therefore not result in displacement.
  • Many of the management measures can be zoned, so displacement is unlikely to occur in pMPAs where this can be progressed.
  • For infrastructure (renewables, oil and gas, cables), MPA features will need to be considered in the course of project siting and design. For the purposes of this SEA, it has been assumed that such measures will be able to successfully mitigate adverse effects on these features, and that displacement will not occur.

The results of the review are summarised in Table 2, taking these factors into account.

41. For those activities where displacement will occur, it is not possible at this stage to identify alternative locations. This will be the subject of discussion with stakeholders in the course of the consultation. We are therefore unable to assess the potential environmental effects of new and/or intensified activity, other than to note the following:

  • moving activities to new areas that are currently unused or have low levels of use would likely result in effects on the seabed, e.g. abrasion, surface damage, etc. The significance of these effects would depend on the nature of the seabed affected and the sensitivity of the habitat.

moving activities to areas that are already in use may intensify existing environmental effects, including pressures on benthic habitats, pressures on fish stocks, risk of injury through collision, etc. Again, the significance of these effects would depend on the area in question, the type of activity and the current level of activity.

Table 2. Potential for Displacement red = uncertain; blue = more likely

infrastructure
MPA features marine disposal mobile gear static gear diver renew- ables oil and gas cables shellfish farms finfish farms anchors mooring
continental slope
northern sea fan and sponge communities
orange roughy
seamounts
shelf banks and mounds
shelf deeps
white cluster anemones
circalittoral sand and mud communities uncertain
fronts
herring spawning grounds uncertain
circalittoral muddy sand communities
circalittoral sand and coarse sediment communities uncertain more likely
common skate uncertain
shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves uncertain more likely
sublittoral mud and mixed sediment communities
ocean quahog aggregations more likely
offshore subtidal sands and gravels more likely
fan mussel aggregations uncertain
northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata uncertain
black guillemot
deep-sea sponge aggregations more likely more likely
kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment uncertain more likely
offshore deep sea muds more likely more likely
seamount communities more likely more likely
ocean quahog (species) more likely more likely
seagrass beds more likely uncertain more likely uncertain
maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers more likely more likely
sandeels more likely more likely
native oysters more likely uncertain more likely more likely
serpulid aggregations more likely uncertain
flame shell beds uncertain uncertain more likely uncertain
maerl beds uncertain uncertain more likely uncertain
burrowed mud uncertain more likely uncertain
horse mussel beds uncertain uncertain uncertain more likely

Marine Geodiversity

42. As with biodiversity, the pMPAs will have benefits for geodiversity features. This is their key purpose, with a focus on specific features (identified in Table 1), and the benefit of designation will primarily accrue to these features.

43. Designation and protection of these geodiversity features may result in benefits to geodiversity features in other areas of the sea, through changes to existing marine activities and/or management practices.

Climatic Factors

44. Displacement of commercial fishing could result in longer journeys, with increased fuel consumption and therefore increased greenhouse gas emissions. However, at this stage, it is not possible to estimate the increase in journey length. As noted in paragraph 41, we do not know where displaced mobile and/or static gear. for example, would be likely to go. In consequence, other than to say there may be an increase in fuel consumption, it is not possible to provide estimates of such increased emissions, nor to ascertain how significant this may be in the overall context of the Scottish fleet.

45. It should be noted that the seas also offer us indirect benefits, such as nutrient cycling or reducing the effects of climate change. These are benefits that we currently gain no direct economic output from, but which provide services that would be very costly to manage ourselves if they disappeared. Habitats such as kelp forests and seagrass beds are not only important habitats for juvenile fish, but are also recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme as important carbon sinks. Carbon sinks store carbon dioxide, helping to regulate climate and contribute to mitigating change.

What are the likely combined effects of the possible MPAs with other plans, when viewed together?

46. The assessment of cumulative effects has looked at the combined effects of the possible MPAs ( i.e., all the pMPAs working together) and in combination with other plans, programmes and/or strategies.

47. Taken together, the pMPAs are likely to result in benefits to biodiversity, in terms of protection provided to the MPA features. However, there is also potential for adverse effects on biodiversity from displacement of commercial fishing activities. At this stage, for those activities where displacement is likely to occur, it is not possible to identify alternative locations.

48. In consequence, it is not possible at this stage to ascertain whether there may be cumulative effects resulting from the effects of displacement of commercial fishing activities and the effects of other proposals for activity in the marine environment, including the Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters (part of the Planning Scotland's Seas consultation).

49. The possible MPAs will work together with the existing protection measures to provide protection to the biodiversity and geodiversity features in Scottish territorial and offshore waters. Taken together, this will be of benefit to those features. In addition, the possible MPAs will contribute to meeting the objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, in terms of the achievement of good environmental status and in contributing to the objectives of good environmental status, such as the protection of seafloor systems (Qualitative Descriptor 6 of Annex I of the directive).

What happens next?

50. Following consultation, the possible MPAs will be revised in response to comments made on the consultation overview, the Environmental Report, the Sustainability Appraisal Report and the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessments ( BRIAs). Once the MPAs have been "adopted", i.e. through designation orders under section 67 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, a Post-Adoption Statement will be prepared.

51. The Post-Adoption Statement will explain how issues raised in the SEA, and associated views in response to the consultation, have been addressed.

How do I respond to the consultation?

52. Views on the possible MPAs and the findings of the SEA are now invited.

53. Copies of the consultation document (2013 Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Consultation Overview), the Environmental Report, the Sustainability Appraisal Report and the BRIAs are available for viewing during office hours at the Scottish Government library at Saughton House, Edinburgh (K Spur, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD).

54. Please send your comments to the MPA Network Consultation, by 13 November 2013, at the following address:

By email to: Marine_Environment_Mailbox@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or

By post, to:

MPA Network Consultation
Scottish Government
Marine Planning and Policy Division
Area 1-A South
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

55. If you have any inquiries please send them to Marine_Environment_Mailbox@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or telephone Sebastian Howell on 0131 244 5301, Micahel McLeod on 0131 244 5562 or Paul Cook on 0131 244 0381.


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