Scotland's National Marine Plan

This plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles).

Annex C: Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the National Marine Plan

Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the National Marine Plan

The following is a summary of the overall assessment of Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the National Marine Plan.

Significant pressures in the marine environment

Two significant pressures are widespread: climate change contributed to by human activity, and fishing which impacts on the seabed and species. Various types of fishing each exert a different pressure on different components of the marine environment. For example, bottom trawlers and scallop dredgers may damage the seabed while pelagic trawling gear does not normally do so.

Impacts of pressures such as marine litter and noise are not well understood. Other pressures may change in scale and location in the future, for example those associated with offshore oil and gas as new fields are discovered and others are decommissioned. New pressures are likely to include those associated with the storage of carbon dioxide and renewable energy.

Clean and safe

Our seas are mainly clean although there are some localised areas where there is contamination or hazard to human health. For example, sediments in some harbours and estuaries remain contaminated by historical industrial discharges. The Forth and Clyde estuaries are compromised by industrial effluent and treated sewage [166] , although effluent treatment has improved resulting in returning populations of residential and migratory fish.

Healthy and biologically diverse

Assessment of the range of habitat types and key species groups, their distribution and characteristics in Scotland's seas indicate:

  • Certain habitats have been impacted, largely from the effects of fishing over large areas of the seabed and more localised impacts from activities such as aquaculture.
  • Low abundance of some demersal commercial fish species on the west coast is a major concern and is being addressed through various initiatives.
  • Sharks, skates and rays are severely depleted (although sightings of basking sharks have increased), largely as result of historical unsustainable catches and their long lived, low fecundity life cycle.
  • Populations of some seabirds, harbour seals and some fish species have declined, possibly because of climate change, human activities and competition from other species.
  • There are no specific concerns regarding whales and dolphins, although there are high levels of uncertainty in assessing this.


Analysis of economic and spatial information about human activities in our seas, both for the core marine sector ( i.e. industries which predominantly rely on the sea to generate their output) and for a number of other sectors benefiting from the sea indicates:

  • The core marine sector, less the extraction of oil and gas, contributed £4.5 billion of Gross Value Added in 2011; oil and gas extraction had a GVA of approximately £19.7 billion [167] ; and approximately 44,600 people were employed in the core marine sector in 2011.
  • Fishing takes place in all sea areas, but some are more economically productive than others. Aquaculture predominates on the west coast and the islands.
  • Sixteen major ports handle about 98% of all port traffic. Significant shipping activity includes transit through Scottish waters, arrival at ports and ferry activity.
  • The potential of renewable energy generation from offshore wind, waves and tides has started to be realised. There is potential for 'carbon capture and storage' schemes under the seabed.
  • Other activities include water abstraction for power stations, disposal of treated waste water and industrial effluent, telecommunications cables, recreation and tourism including marine sports and natural/cultural heritage tourism.


Back to top