Minke whales, 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) by the Scottish Government.
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.
The four new Marine Protected Areas are: North-east Lewis; Sea of the Hebrides (the largest of the four new MPAs); Shiant East Bank (located in the middle of the Minch, the body of water separating the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland) and Southern Trench.
The sites receiving Special Protection Area status include: the seas off Foula; the East Mainland Coast of Shetland; the Sound of Gigha; Coll, Tiree and Rum; the west coast of the Outer Hebrides; as well as coastal areas to the south west and east of Scotland.
Natural Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “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.”
Calum Duncan, the Marine Conservation Society’s Head of Conservation Scotland said: “We are delighted to see these new areas designated to protect basking sharks and some of the other stunning marine wildlife and habitats found in Scotland’s seas. Now it is key that these areas, and the wider protected area network, are properly managed so that they can support urgently needed ocean recovery.
“To do this, protection measures still need to be put in place for most sites in the network. Building back better from the intertwined climate, nature and Covid crises must include real protection measures to make sure the network helps increase ecosystem resilience, combat climate change and supports coastal communities into the future.”