UK dolphin and porpoise conservation strategy: high level strategy

High level strategy for the proposed UK Dolphin and Porpoise Conservation Strategy summarising the existing management measures and proposals for future action to be taken to deliver the seven objectives identified in the strategy currently being consulted on.

Section 2 - Species protection and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

European Protected Species

14. All cetacean species found in UK waters (including those covered by this strategy) are protected under the EU Habitats Directive[1]. National legislation implements the EU Habitats Directive and makes it an offence to deliberately kill, injure, capture or disturb all cetaceans (Annex 2 of the technical report). In the UK, we refer to these as European Protected Species[2] (EPS) and they are strictly protected[3] throughout their natural range.

15. Where an activity is proposed and, despite the necessary considerations of the application, any proposed mitigation and processes being undertaken, there is a risk of a residual offence being committed, authorisation can be provided through EPS licensing, if required, and subject to the requirements under the relevant legislation being met.

16. There is published guidance on EPS and licensing in English[4], Welsh[5], Scottish[6] and Northern Irish[7] waters.

Marine Licensing

17. Part four of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009[8] and part four of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010[9] define activities for which a marine licence may be required.

18. Before deciding to undertake, give consent, permission or authorisation for a relevant plan or project that may impact a designated site, it is the role of the competent authority to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) (Habitat Regulations Appraisal in Scotland) to assess the potential impact of a plan or project on the site, in view of that site's conservation objectives under the appropriate UK legislation. This assessment is carried out during the relevant application process and where required, conservation measures may be put in place.

19. There is published guidance for planning and licensing processes in English[10], Welsh[11], Scottish[12] and Northern Irish[13] waters, as well as guidance for English[14], Welsh[15] and Scottish[16] waters to support authorities in undertaking HRAs.

20. At strategic levels, Strategic Environmental Assessment is used to consider the consequences of plans and projects for protected sites and species.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

21. The UK is a signatory to a range of international agreements which require the development of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs across Europe, the North-east Atlantic and globally. MPAs are one of a number of management tools used to help deliver conservation objectives and authorise sustainable use of the seas around the UK.

22. Provisions under the EU Habitats Directive also require Member States to contribute to the ecological network of protected sites across Europe by designating Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises are the only cetaceans listed in Annex II of the Directive.

23. The UK has designated three SACs for bottlenose dolphins and seven SACs for harbour porpoises. These SACs recognise the areas that are important for the species as indicated by persistently higher densities of animals or by supporting key aspects of the species lifecycle, for example for breeding or feeding. The SACs place specific duties on public authorities to manage activities for which they have responsibility, in a way that avoids deterioration of the site. As such, these sites contribute in the best possible way to achieving and/or maintaining the favourable conservation status of the species throughout UK waters.

24. The maintenance of favourable conservation status of protected species, such as those covered by this strategy, is an important principle underpinning the development of marine plans for UK waters.

25. In Scotland, in 2020, four MPAs were designated, including two for minke whales and one for Risso's. These designations are some of the first of this kind in the world.

26. MPA designations for the other species covered by this strategy can be designated under national legislation.



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