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Safeguarding Scotland’s marine environment

New sites to offer protection for iconic species.

Minke whale, basking sharks and Risso’s dolphins will be among a wide range of biodiversity and geological features to be safeguarded following the designation of four new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

A further 12 sites have been given Special Protection Area status, providing additional protection to Scotland’s vulnerable marine birds including sea ducks, divers, grebes and our iconic seabirds.

A total of 230 sites are now subject to marine protection measures, covering around 227,622 square kilometres – 37% – of Scotland’s seas.

The West of Scotland MPA, Europe’s largest Marine Protected Area, was designated in September and is regarded by the Convention on Biological Diversity as “internationally significant”.

Natural Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon said:

“It is our duty to help protect and enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations. These designations continue Scotland’s commitment to lead by example on environmental protection.

“Not only are our seas fundamental to our way of life, they provide habitats for a hugely diverse range of marine wildlife and it is vital that we ensure appropriate protection for them.

“Scotland’s waters are home to many unique species and these designations ensure our MPA network is fully representative of our marine diversity, exceeding the proposed international target to achieve 30% of global MPA coverage by 2030.

“Protecting Scotland’s marine environment is also crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our marine industries and these designations will form a key element of our Blue Economy Action Plan.”

Background

The four new Marine Protected Areas are:

  • North-east Lewis: The protected features include Risso’s dolphins and sandeels.
  • Sea of the Hebrides: The largest of the four new MPAs. The protected features include basking sharks and minke whale.
  • Shiant East Bank: Located in the middle of the Minch, the sea which separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland. The protected features include sponge habitats and sea fans, a variety of coral.
  • Southern Trench.The protected features include minke whale.

The sites receiving Special Protection Area status are:

  • Solway Firth
  • Seas off St Kilda
  • Seas off Foula
  • Moray Firth
  • Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch (extension)
  • Outer Firth of Forth and Outer St Andrews Bay complex
  • Bluemull and Colgrave Sounds
  • East Mainland Coast Shetland
  • Sound of Gigha
  • Coll and Tiree
  • Rum
  • West Coast of the Outer Hebrides

The West of Scotland MPA was announced in September.

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