Four new Scottish marine protected areas considered

Date posted: 7 June 2019

Some of Scotland’s most iconic ocean species could face additional protections under proposals for four new marine protected areas (MPAs).

The proposed sites would add to a growing network of marine protected areas around the Scottish coast.

Basking shark
© Frogfish photography

Scotland’s seas are globally important for a range of species and habitats, including the mighty basking shark, but they face increasing pressure from climate change and human activity.

Calum Duncan,
MCS Head of Conservation Scotland

A public consultation has been announced by the Scottish Government to coincide with World Oceans Day. The new MPAs, if approved, would safeguard species including the world’s second largest fish, the basking shark, as well as minke whales and the little known Risso’s dolphin and some habitats.

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation Scotland and Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Group said: “Scotland’s seas are globally important for a range of species and habitats, including the mighty basking shark, but they face increasing pressure from climate change and human activity.

“We know that Scotland’s wildlife and environmental quality are of immense value, both intrinsically and to our global reputation, and so we are pleased these new sites are being proposed. It is vital such special places are properly protected from damaging activities to support wider marine ecosystem health and ensure Scotland is a beacon of ocean recovery worldwide.”

The numbers of basking sharks had declined over recent decades due to commercial fishing, but they migrate to Scottish waters during the summer to feed and breed in a global hotspot for the species. A proposed MPA for the Sea of the Hebrides would be among the first protected areas for basking sharks in the world.

Data provided by MCS on basking sharks helped to support the case for an extensive Sea of Hebrides MPA, which is also proposed for minke whales and tidal fronts. At 10,039km2 if approved, it is thought it would be the biggest of its kind in the world.

The other proposed sites would protect a range of species and habitats: minke whales, burrowed mud and shelf deeps in Southern Trench in the outer Moray Firth; Risso’s dolphin and sandeels in Northeast Lewis and sea-fan and sponge communities and shelf banks at Shiant East Bank.

The long-awaited consultation comes just a week after 41 new Marine Conservation Zones were designated around the English and Northern Irish coast. Check out our news item here.

The consultation can be found here.

Actions you can take

  1. Browse Marine Protected Areas
  2. Report your wildlife sightings
  3. Tell us about your Basking Shark sightings
  4. Donate to our Shark Appeal
  5. Find out more about Scottish Wildlife
  6. Browse Scotland's Marine Atlas

Did you know?…

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers

MCS established its Scotland office and programme in 2000 in Edinburgh

Over the last century, we have lost around 90% of the biggest predatory oceanic fish, such as tuna, swordfish and sharks