MPA Selection Process

JNCC and SNH applied a science-based approach to select Nature Conservation MPAs, underpinned by the presence of MPA search features. These largely comprise the Priority Marine Features (PMFs) for which MPAs are considered the most appropriate conservation mechanism.

The Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines, which were jointly produced between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), JNCC and Marine Scotland with input from key stakeholders, set out a 5-stage process for selecting Nature Conservation MPAs in Scotland’s seas.

Our application of the selection process is provided in the Detailed Assessment Against the Guidelines document for each Nature Conservation MPA.

Although JNCC and SNH used a science-based approach to select Nature Conservation MPAs, there have been key opportunities for stakeholder engagement throughout the process. Marine Scotland led five national stakeholder workshops with a range of stakeholders to discuss and improve the data we hold on marine features, marine activities and to discuss the selection of initial and additional MPA search locations and the application of the Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines to develop MPA proposals. In addition to this, regular update meetings are, and will continue to be, held with key interest groups.


Seamount communities of the Hebrides Terrace seamount

Network Advice

In November 2012, SNH and JNCC submitted formal advice on the selection of Nature Conservation MPAs for the development of the Scottish MPA network* to Scottish Ministers and Marine Scotland. Scottish Ministers used our advice to report to Parliament on progress in developing the MPA network in December 2012, and to decide which of the Nature Conservation MPA proposals were included in the public consultation.

*Since the publication of the Scottish MPA network advice, some of the advice relating to the possible Nature Conservation MPAs has changed. A summary of these changes as an addendum to Table A5.1 is available here.

JNCC and SNH’s advice identified 33 possible Nature Conservation MPAs across the Scottish marine environment, as well as four areas that remained as MPA search locations in territorial waters. Our advice recommended that at least 29 of the 33 possible MPAs were designated, along with MPAs derived from the remaining search locations, to meet obligations under the UK and Scottish Marine Acts and contribute to an ecologically coherent network of MPAs. 


Public consultation on possible Nature Conservation MPAs

Marine Scotland undertook a 16 week consultation from July to November 2013 to seek views on the proposed network of MPAs as part of the wider Planning Scotland's Seas consultation.  33 possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scotland’s seas were consulted on which included options and alternatives for the representation of certain features and a further four MPA search locations remain to be fully assessed.

JNCC produced a report on our advice on selected responses to the 2013 Marine Scotland consultation on Nature Conservation MPAs. Our advice focused only on matters raised during the consultation that were of a scientific nature, and did not respond to legislative and policy interpretation issues, or policy questions relating to management measures. SNH also prepared a report in response to questions regarding science issues raised concerning pMPAs in Scotland’s territorial waters, which is available on the SNH website

A summary of the consultation responses is available on Marine Scotland’s website

Deep sea sponge aggregations, or "ostebund" © JNCC      Coral gardens © JNCC      Offshore deep sea muds © JNCC