New marine draft Special Protection Areas being considered by Scottish Government

The seas around Scotland support huge numbers of different species of marine birds, including almost half of the European Union's breeding seabirds. These birds depend on our seas to provide them with food, and some species are declining worldwide.   Such declines may be due to a number of factors including climate change and related impacts such as changes in food supply.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are required under the Birds Directive (EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds - 2009/147/EC) to protect rare, vulnerable and migratory birds. The suite of SPAs on land in Scotland and in the UK is well established, but further work is needed to complete the suite at sea. A suite of draft SPAs in Scottish waters has been announced by Scottish Government who wish to make stakeholders aware of additional marine sites that are being considered for classification by the Scottish Government over the next few months. At this stage we are providing early information for stakeholders on the process of identifying marine SPAs in Scotland and the areas being considered; the public consultation will follow at a later date.

The draft SPAs that are being considered have been identified based on many years of research on marine birds carried out largely by JNCC. These  include two locations which are primarily in offshore waters (beyond 12 nautical miles from coast) where JNCC has the advisory role, and twelve locations in inshore waters (up to 12 nautical miles) where Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) leads on advice. The offshore locations are in the seas around St Kilda and Foula and support a combined seven species of seabird in important numbers, including Northern gannet (almost 2/3rd of the world population breed in Scotland), and the iconic puffin. Gannet

This news comes at the same time as an announcement on the designation of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to help conserve habitats, species and undersea landforms in Scotland’s seas. Nature Conservation MPAs and SPAs are designated under different pieces of legislation, and for different features. Nature Conservation MPAs have already been subject to public consultation and ministerial approval, and today 30 new Nature Conservation MPAs have been designated. 

Natural England (NE), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DoENI) are considering possible marine SPAs in English, Welsh and Northern Irish inshore waters, including extensions to existing seabird colony SPAs and entirely marine SPAs. JNCC are considering possible marine SPAs in offshore waters elsewhere in the UK.


For further information on JNCC work on marine SPAs