Engaging stakeholders in the protection of Scotland's

marine life


Scotland’s seas are unique to the UK and Europe, hosting a range of nationally important marine habitats and species; from dense aggregations of coldwater coral reefs present in the deep waters off to the west of Scotland to species including the long-lived and slow-growing deep water fish orange roughy. To the north of Scotland, dense aggregations of giant and glass sponges occur in the Faroe-Shetland Channel where they are referred to by local fishermen as ‘Ostebund’ or ‘cheese-bottoms’ due to their appearance.  


At a national workshop for marine stakeholder groups, the Faroe-Shetland Channel was presented as one of 30 initial search locations for nature conservation MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) in Scotland’s seas. The workshop was the third in a series organised by partners of the Scottish MPA Project, led by Marine Scotland in collaboration with JNCC and Scottish Natural Heritage.


The MPA search locations presented to stakeholders represented areas from which it may be appropriate to develop Nature Conservation MPAs. The list includes several options and recommendations for more detailed assessments and it is not expected that MPA proposals will be developed from each of the 30 search locations. The workshop was used as an opportunity at this early stage to discuss the size and shape of these locations.


MPAs are part of the Scottish Government’s three pillar approach to marine nature conservation, the three pillars being species measures, wider seas policies such as marine spatial planning and site protection measures – namely MPAs. The Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act include powers and duties to designate a network of MPAs to protect biodiversity and geodiversity in Scotland’s seas. The network will contribute to Scotland’s agreement with international partners to create an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs in the North East Atlantic.


Scotland’s MPA network is being developed using a science-based approach, following the MPA Selection Guidelines published by Marine Scotland in 2010. The 30 MPA search locations presented at the workshop were generated by applying the selection guidelines to 42 Broad Search Areas, derived through a series of studies. These included the investigation of opportunities around areas already subject to some form of marine management, including areas managed for fisheries purposes. Finally, an assessment of where and how Scotland’s seas are being used enabled the identification of  areas of least interest to sea users and where habitats and species may potentially be in a better condition – termed as ‘least damaged/more natural’ locations.


Through these studies, it was found that some habitats and species for which Nature Conservation MPAs are being identified (known as MPA search features) are well represented by existing protected areas. Examples include blue mussel beds and carbonate mound communities. It is those features that are only partially represented, or not currently represented at all, for which initial MPA search locations have been identified.


A fourth national MPA workshop will be held on the 14-15 March and as locations are further refined stakeholder dialogue will be opened out, bringing in more local interest groups and communities. The Scottish MPA Project will report to Parliament on progress in developing the MPA network by the end of 2012.


For more information on the Scottish MPA Project, please visit JNCC, Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland.


Contact File


Pete Chaniotis

UK MPA Communications Officer

Tel: +44 (0) 1224 266586


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