Publication - Impact assessment

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

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

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

110 page PDF

3.3 MB

3. Approach To The Assessment

3.1 Scope of the Possible MPAs to be Assessed

3.1.1 The purpose of the SEA is to assess the potential effects of the possible MPAs on the environment. The SEA has not assessed the scientific or conservation effectiveness of the possible MPAs. For example, the SEA has not evaluated whether or not the pMPAs, alongside the existing measures, will achieve their conservation objectives. This has been undertaken by SNH and JNCC, as part of the MPA identification and selection process.

3.1.2 The SEA has assessed each of the possible MPA locations, as well as the potential for the cumulative effects of the nature conservation MPA network. This has not included the areas of search, as these remain the subject of further study. Assessment of any possible MPAs in these areas will be progressed, as required, once further information is available.

3.1.3 The possible MPAs include draft management options for each feature. These have been assessed, at a strategic level, for their potential to displace activities, and the effects that this may have in terms of activities in new areas or intensification of already-existing activities.

3.1.4 Historic MPA proposals have been treated as part of the environmental baseline, and included in the cumulative assessment.

3.1.5 As noted in paragraph 1.8, a socio-economic assessment has also been undertaken. The assessment investigates the potential cumulative economic benefits and costs, and associated potential social impacts, of designating each pMPA. It also considers the potential economic benefits and costs, and associated potential social impacts, of designating the suite of pMPAs as a whole. The assessment has informed the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessments ( BRIAs) prepared for each pMPA, and the Sustainability Appraisal for the suite of pMPAs as a whole.

3.2 Scope of the Environmental Topics Assessed

3.2.1 An initial review of the possible MPAs against the environmental topics set out in Schedule 3 of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 suggested that potential effects would be focused on biodiversity, water, and climatic factors. The scoping report proposed that the SEA should focus on these factors, but sought advice as to whether cultural heritage and landscape/seascape should be included.

3.2.2 Several scoping responses suggested that the scope of the assessment should be wider than that proposed in the scoping report, and should include:

  • geodiversity
  • landscape/seascape
  • cultural heritage
  • different aspects of climatic factors to those proposed
  • population and human health

These are discussed in the following paragraphs.


3.2.3 This topic was not included in the scoping report, but this was an oversight. Geodiversity issues have been included in the SEA.


3.2.4 There were mixed views as to whether landscape/seascape should be scoped into the SEA. For example, some respondents considered that the possible MPAs have the opportunity to help to manage development activities which in turn have an implication for landscape/ seascape, and that landscape/ seascape should therefore be scoped in.

3.2.5 Other respondents also considered, although for different reasons, that landscape/seascape should be scoped in, and cited the contribution of landscape/seascape to the Scottish economy. (We have assumed that this relates to the importance of landscape/seascape to tourism.)

3.2.6 One of the activities with implications for landscape/seascape is the deployment of offshore wind farms. Scenarios for the management of the possible MPAs have been developed as part of the socio-economic assessment. The "upper management scenario" for offshore renewable energy includes mitigation measures such as graded scour protection, re-routeing of cables, and relocation of development within areas identified as potentially suitable for offshore wind [10] . Relocation would be the key measure which could have the benefit (which we consider to be indirect) described in paragraph 3.2.4, i.e. resulting in offshore wind turbines being located elsewhere. However, given that the focus is on relocation, rather than removal, it is possible that such displacement could affect landscape/seascape outwith proposed MPA areas. On balance, having taken advice from SNH, we do not consider that such potential impacts are certain or significant enough for this topic to be scoped into the assessment.

3.2.7 It should also be noted that the possible MPA management options papers present options for the management of activities which may interact with features of the MPAs. They should not be viewed as a means to manage activities for the conservation of features other than those for which the pMPA is intended. In addition, the potential landscape/seascape effects of offshore renewable energy will be managed at plan-level by the forthcoming National Marine Plan and the sectoral marine plans, and at project-level by the marine licensing process.

Cultural heritage

3.2.8 In their scoping response, Historic Scotland noted that Marine Scotland's report to the Scottish Parliament [7] identified 1220 records of wrecks and documented losses of ships within the boundaries of possible nature conservation MPAs. There is therefore potential for some secondary benefit to the historic environment from the nature conservation pMPAs, but the extent of this would depend on their conservation objectives and the extent to which these would also be beneficial for historic environment features. It was therefore agreed that the effects of the nature conservation pMPAs are likely to be positive, but not significant, for the historic environment and that the historic environment could be scoped out of the SEA.

3.2.9 However, there were mixed views as to whether cultural heritage should be scoped into the SEA. Some respondents considered that the possible MPAs could help to support cultural heritage by ensuring the protection and, where appropriate, enhancement of marine species and habitats which in themselves have cultural existence value. One respondent cited SNH's "Big 5" campaign [11] as an example of species with such value.

3.2.10 Others felt that the SEA should assess the potential effects of the possible MPAs on traditional activities considered to comprise a key part of Scotland's cultural heritage. The focus of this view was on fishing as a traditional activity.

3.2.11 In addition to the tangible features of the historic environment (such as listed lighthouses and protected wreck sites), marine cultural heritage includes the important relationships of many communities to the seas around them, as reflected in traditional uses of the waters and their products, as well as events such as traditional boat regattas. Intangible cultural heritage ( ICH) is protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003 (not yet ratified by the UK). It was preceded by the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (adopted in November 2001), Article 1 of which states that preservation of cultural diversity "is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities and the groups of societies making up humankind". The consultation document (on page 11) acknowledges the importance of what are known as non-use benefits and notes that these are more to do with cultural values: protecting places simply to know that they are there to be enjoyed enriches us all, and to lose them would be a loss to future generations that will not be able to experience them.

3.2.12 The subjective nature of intangible cultural heritage, and the lack of baseline evidence, makes assessment difficult, and it would be difficult to reach a meaningful conclusion without significant background work including, for example, survey of fishing communities around Scotland. In consequence, cultural heritage has been scoped out of the SEA. However, the socio-economic assessment has noted where traditional fishing activity may be lost, as a potential social effect.

Climatic factors

3.2.13 The scoping report noted that displacement of fishing activity, where it may occur, could result in longer journey times/lengths. This could result, for example, from fishing vessels making longer trips to different fishing grounds as an alternative to those previously used. The scoping report therefore included climatic factors in the scope of the SEA, given the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions from fishing vessels. It was suggested that the scope should be widened to include potential increases in emissions from vessels from other sectors, and this suggestion has been accepted.

3.2.14 It was also suggested that the SEA should include the effects on climatic factors of the potential displacement of marine renewables from proposed MPAs. In particular, one respondent requested that the effects on the ability of the offshore wind, wave and tidal resource to mitigate climate change, and the potential effect on climate change targets, be assessed. There are difficulties in progressing such an assessment. At this stage, the sectoral plan options do not identify generation targets for each of the draft plan option areas. In addition, the management proposals for renewables tend to focus on relocation, e.g. through micro-siting, rather than removal. In consequence, we consider that it is too early to undertake this work and it has not been scoped into the SEA. The socio-economic assessment has identified, at a very high level, where the pMPAs may have a possible impact in relation to climate change and the ability of the Scottish Government to meet its 2020 renewables targets, decarbonisation targets and climate change targets.

Population and Human Health

3.2.15 It was proposed that the safety implications of proposed management measures, in terms of the safety of operatives and other users of the sea, should be included in the SEA. We considered whether health and safety issues should be included as part of "human health"; this topic was scoped out of the SEA at scoping stage, as population and human health issues would be considered by the socio-economic assessment. EU Commission advice on the treatment of "human health" in SEA notes that it should be considered in the context of the other SEA topics, e.g. air and water quality, soil, etc. The guidance suggests that environmentally-related health issues, such as exposure to air pollutants, could be the subject of assessment. In consequence, health and safety has not been included in the SEA. However, the socio-economic assessment has noted where the proposed management measures may result in changes to marine activities which could have health and safety implications.

Environmental Scope

3.2.16 The resulting scope of the environmental topics to be used in the SEA, considered in light of the consultation responses, is provided in Table 4.

3.3 Environmental Protection Objectives

3.3.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the SEA should identify the environmental protection objectives (established at international, European, UK or Scottish level) relevant to the strategies. Environmental legislation and policy has been reviewed and a summary as well as details of the environmental protection objectives are provided in Appendix 1. The principles underlying these have been incorporated into the SEA objectives (Table 5).

Table 4. Scoping In / Out of SEA Topics

SEA Topic In/out Reasons for inclusion / exclusion
Biodiversity, flora and fauna In Possible MPAs could have positive effects on biodiversity. Displaced activities could have adverse effects on biodiversity, e.g. fishing in previously unfished areas, or increasing fishing intensity in existing fisheries.
Population Human health Out Out Social and economic effects, including health and safety, have been considered by the socio-economic assessment.
Soil: seabed Out Potential management of the effects of human activity on seabed strata and/or bottom sediments could benefit the ecological/environmental status of water bodies. These issues are covered in "biodiversity".
Soil: marine geodiversity In Potential management of the effects of human activity in the marine environment could benefit marine geodiversity.
Water Out Potential management of the effects of human activity could benefit the ecological/environmental status of water bodies. Such effects are considered under "biodiversity". Effects on water quality are not anticipated and have been scoped out.
Air Out It is unlikely that the possible MPAs and their potential management measures would affect air quality. Air quality has therefore been scoped out.
Climatic factors In The displacement of vessel activity, should this occur, could result in longer journey times/lengths and consequent increases in GHG emissions. The socio-economic assessment has considered ecosystem services to manage climate change, provided by certain components of the proposals.
Material assets Out The effects of the possible MPAs on other users of the marine environment, both adverse and beneficial, have been assessed by the socio-economic assessment.
Cultural heritage Out The potential effects of the possible MPAs on tangible and intangible cultural heritage have been scoped out of the SEA (see discussion in paragraphs 3.2.8-12). This has been agreed by Historic Scotland. However, the socio-economic assessment has noted where traditional fishing activity may be lost, as a potential social effect.
Landscape/ Seascape Out The potential effects of the possible MPAs on landscape/seascape, both negative and positive, have not been considered to be significant and, in consequence, landscape/seascape has been scoped out of the assessment. This has been agreed by SNH.

3.4 Assessment Methods

3.4.1 The SEA has considered the environmental effects of the possible MPAs as follows:

  • Direct effects, e.g. benefits for biodiversity through changes to human activities progressed in certain locations
  • Indirect effects, e.g. the effects of displacement of fishing on previously unfished areas or the intensification of effort in existing fisheries

3.4.2 The SEA has been undertaken as a high-level, qualitative assessment, using the SEA objectives set out in Table 5.

3.4.3 One respondent suggested that the SEA objective for climatic factors be widened to include "to contribute to climate change adaptation by considering the use of flexible MPA boundaries to respond to climate-induced changes". However, such flexibility is an integral part of MPA designation and management. The boundaries can and may change in future to take account of climate change and evidence of changing distributions of features, amongst other things. However, this is for the medium to long-term: at this stage of the process, it is too early to indicate where such flexibility may be required.

Assessment framework

3.4.4 The assessment of the pMPAs against the SEA objectives is set out in assessment tables in Appendix 3.

Table 5. SEA Objectives

SEA Topics SEA Objective
Biodiversity, flora and fauna
  • to safeguard (and, where appropriate, enhance) marine and coastal ecosystems, including species and habitats, and their interactions
  • to maintain or work towards good ecological/environmental status of water bodies
  • to maintain and protect the character and integrity of the seabed
  • see biodiversity
Soil: marine geodiversity
  • to safeguard (and, where appropriate, enhance) geodiversity features
Soil: seabed
  • seabed integrity: see biodiversity
Climatic factors
  • to reduce GHG emissions from vessels