Exciting year ahead for the protection of Scottish seas


Scotland’s seas account for over 60% of UK waters and are home to a rich diversity of habitats and species, including cold-water corals, an estimated 3.2 million breeding seabirds and communities of giant deep-water sponges. The year ahead looks to be an exciting time for the protection of Scottish seas as a result of recent developments to further the protection of Scotland’s marine biodiversity and geodiversity. Colourful critters on Hebrides Terrace Seamount ©JNCC/ Herriot Watt University


Over the past three years, JNCC has been working in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland on a project to identify Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (MPA) proposals in Scotland’s seas. Using a science-based approach, these new areas are intended to protect nationally important habitats, species, geology and undersea landforms.  The proposals have been developed in accordance with the MPA Selection Guidelines published by Marine Scotland in 2010 and with input from stakeholders through a series of five national stakeholder workshops.


In November 2012, JNCC and SNH submitted their formal advice on the selection of Nature Conservation MPAs to the Scottish Minister for Environment and Climate Change and Marine Scotland. The document set out advice on Nature Conservation MPA proposals identified to complement existing MPAs in Scotland’s seas. Flame shell beds, burrowed mud habitats and deep sea sponge aggregations are a few of the features that are represented in these new MPA proposals, as well as seamounts and shelf banks that support the functioning of their surrounding environment. JNCC led on the identification of proposals within offshore waters adjacent to Scotland (outside 12 nautical miles) whilst SNH led on proposals within Scottish territorial waters (within 12 nautical miles). This advice has supported the Scottish Minister’s 2012 report to Parliament on progress in developing a MPA network.  Ministers will then decide which of the Nature Conservation MPA proposals will go forward to a public consultation due to take place in 2013.


Seapens and burrowing megafauna © Sue Scott

Throughout the project, JNCC and SNH have worked with a range of organisations including Marine Scotland Science, marine industries, non-governmental organisations and academic institutions to bring together data from a range of sources. This evidence base has been strengthened by a number of surveys that took place in Scottish waters throughout 2010-12.  For offshore waters these included trips to sample the giant sponge grounds of the Faroe-Shetland Channel and the colourful range of corals from the Hebrides Terrace Seamount. The survey results have then been used to enhance knowledge of the areas being considered as Nature Conservation MPA proposals. 


Nature Conservation MPA proposals are intended to complement parallel projects underway elsewhere in the UK and ongoing work to identify European marine sites (which comprise Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas) to make a significant contribution to the establishment of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in UK waters, and in turn international waters, as agreed under legislation and international commitments such as the OSPAR Convention and EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. More information on the Scottish MPA Project can be found on the SNH and Marine Scotland websites, and on the JNCC Marine Protected Areas webpage.



Contact File


Megan Linwood

Senior MPA Specialist (UK Offshore Areas)

Tel: +44 (0) 1224 266585


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