Report to the Scottish Parliament on Progress to Identify a Scottish Network of Marine Protected Areas

This reports on which sites are currently included in the MPA network and outlines progress on Nature Conservation MPAs, Historic MPAs, and Demonstration and Research MPAs.

What still needs to be done

Nature Conservation MPAs

In total, 33 Nature Conservation MPA proposals have been developed and a further 4 MPA search locations remain to be fully assessed. These areas are Southern Trench, Eye Peninsula to Butt of Lewis, Shiant East Bank and Skye to Mull. SNH and JNCC will continue work to clarify whether search locations which currently have a lower relative level of supporting evidence should be progressed to a full assessment against the guidelines. This is to enable further work to be completed on one or more of the relevant MPA search features before SNH provides its advice to Scottish Ministers. These have the potential to make a significant contribution to the network and should not be considered as substitutes for the recommended Nature Conservation MPA proposals.

Of these 33 proposals SNH and JNCC advise that at least 29 are needed to adequately represent search features in the network. We intend to announce in 2013 the MPAs that will be presented at consultation.

Of the 41 MPA search features listed in the MPA Selection Guidelines, SNH and JNCC have advised that 38 are adequately represented by the MPA proposals. Work intended to address the adequacy of the remaining 3 features (basking shark, common skate and white-beaked dolphin) is outlined below:

  • Basking shark - Tagging work is currently being carried out on basking sharks within the Skye to Mull MPA search location and habitat modelling work is also underway but will not be complete until the results of the tagging work are available. A provisional reassessment of the underpinning data will be made by April 2013 with completion planned for April 2014.
  • Common skate - Further tagging work is currently being carried out and there are plans to extend field work. The findings will be assessed as part of the first review of the Scottish MPA network in 2018.
  • White-beaked dolphin - Habitat modelling work is also underway for white-beaked dolphin as well as Risso's dolphin and minke whale. This is planned for completion by April 2013.

These three features are considered to not achieve adequacy across the network, either under MPA proposals or search locations. While MPAs for minke whale and Risso's dolphin have not yet been identified under the proposals, were the search locations for them progressed they would be considered to achieve adequacy, whereas there is less certainty that the current search location for white-beaked dolphin would provide adequate protection.

Two Demonstration & Research MPA proposals have been received, and are currently being assessed for inclusion in the network.

Further work is currently underway to develop management documentation that will serve to inform stakeholders and ministers on the most effective ways to satisfy conservation objectives and the principle of sustainable use.

Sustainability Appraisal

A Strategic Environmental Assessment and an Impact Assessment will be combined to form an overall Sustainability Appraisal to accompany the 2013 public consultation. The purpose of the Sustainability Appraisal is to inform the scientific recommendations with the socio-economic and wider environmental considerations, without losing sight of the overall benefits of the network ahead of the public consultation. The Sustainability Appraisal will also consider questions of displacement and the approach to the use of search location alternatives.


Work is continuing to identify additional SPAs for seabirds and waterbirds in the marine environment, in addition to the breeding colony sites that were extended into the marine environment in 2009 and is due to be completed by 2015. Maps of search locations to identify these additional SPAs can be found in SNH and JNCC's advice.

The SAC series for habitats is virtually complete with only the Sound of Barra pSAC to reach a conclusion. In terms of species the Sound of Barra pSAC would complete our network in terms of areas for breeding seals. However we do not yet have any SACs for harbour porpoise and this will be given further consideration going forward, along with foraging areas for seals.

Reef and featherstars, Hatton Bank


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