The new nature conservation MPA designation orders come into force on 7 August

Scotland’s

environmental charities have welcomed a decision by the

Scottish Government
to double the size of an emerging network of Marine

Protected Areas (MPAs).

Cabinet Secretary Richard

Lochhead has given the go-ahead for 30 new MPAs to protect a further 12% of

Scotland’s seas, as well as paving the way for urgent new measures to

protect struggling populations of seabirds, whales and dolphins.

Members

of Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce have campaigned for

stronger protection of Scotland’s sealife for over a decade and last

year more than 14,000 people backed proposals for new MPAs during an

extensive public consultation.

The new sites are needed to protect and

recover the full spectrum of Scotland’s sealife from large-scale and

productive offshore habitats to fragile and ecologically important

inshore areas around the coastline.

Inshore MPAs include Clyde Sea Sill, East Caithness Cliffs, Fetlar to Haroldswick, Loch Crera, Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura, Loch Sween, Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh, Monach Isles, Mousa to Boddam, Noss Head, Papa Westray, Small Isles, South Arran, Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil, Wester Ross, Wyre and Rousay Sounds.

The Marine Conservation Society says the announcement also signals a

new Scottish Government resolve to provide protection in critical

habitats for other nationally important mobile species such as basking

sharks, minke whale and Risso’s dolphins.

Licensed

activities at sea will be subject to the new nature conservation MPA

designation orders that come into force on 7 August.

Fisheries management measures for all of the sites will be developed

during an intensive two years process. Together, they must ensure

sealife and seabed habitats in the new MPAs are adequately protected

from damaging activities.

Calum

Duncan, Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce and

Marine Conservation Society, Scotland programme manager said: ‘These new Marine Protected Areas are very welcome news for sealife and

Scotland’s hidden, underwater wonderlands.

‘There has been a consensus

among our marine scientists that the health of Scotland’s seas has

suffered in recent decades and that threats from human activities must

be better managed.

‘By setting up these MPAs the Government has wisely

placed its confidence in that verdict. The work does not stop here – for

the time-being these MPAs are just lines on maps, so careful management

will be needed to ensure they actively help recover our sealife.’

Alex Kinninmonth, Scottish Wildlife Trust Living Seas policy officer said: ‘This is a huge leap forward for nature conservation in Scotland.

‘After

many years of making a compelling case for better management of our

seas, we are delighted to see these ambitious plans for marine

protection. Each new MPA forms an important piece of a complex jigsaw

that when complete will help turn the fortunes of our sea around.’

Sarah Dolman, North Atlantic programme manager for Whale and Dolphin Conservation

said: ‘Having provided the evidence and demonstrated huge public

support for protection of important whale, dolphin and porpoise habitat,

it’s great news that minke whales and Risso’s dolphins are included in

the Scottish MPA network.

‘With the right management in place, MPAs in

conjunction with wider measures, will help to protect Scotland’s

precious whale and dolphin populations.’

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: ‘Scottish ministers have made the right decision for our seas and the

many wonderful species and habitats that live in them.

‘They have also

made the right decision for those communities and industries that depend

on healthy seas in the long term.

‘The next step is to ensure that this

network of MPAs are well managed and result in the recovery of our

ecosystems for the benefit of all. 

‘This is a great step towards

delivering a marine environment where economic interests can operate in a

way that does not have to undermine the health of our seas.’

‘There is still work to do’

Richard Luxmoore, head of Nature Conservation National Trust for Scotland, said: ‘Many of these MPAs – such as South Arran and Wester Ross – have been

the direct result of local campaigning and research.

‘We know that these

measures to recover our sealife have popular support within many

communities, but there is still work to do.

‘Other communities – such as

the tireless campaigners of Fair Isle – are still calling for better

protection of their local marine environment and we hope that these MPAs

mark a new, regionally-sensitive approach to coastal and marine

management.’

Click here to find map showing the locations of the proposed MPAs.

Pictures of a Horse Mussel with sealoch anemones and a Flame Shell credited to the Marine Scotland Image Bank.