Over 37 per cent of Scotland’s sea is now under protection after recent Scottish Government announcement

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A RECENT Scottish Government announcement  has protected over 37 per cent of Scotland’s seas including rare marine species such as the Arctic tern and basking sharks.

The new announcement means that 230 sites in Scotland are now subject to protection measures protecting over 227,622 kilometres of sea.

NatureScot welcomed the designation of 12 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Minister for Rural Affairs  and Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon made the announcement on Thursday to protect Scottish Marine wildlife.

The measures give additional protection to marine species including basking sharks, minke whale and Risso’s dolphin as well as 31 species of marine birds such as the Arctic tern and Kittwake.

Artic Tern
Arctic Tern in flight ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

The new sites receiving Special Protection Area status are:

  • Solway Firth
  • Seas off St Kilda
  • Seas off Foula
  • Moray Firth
  • Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch (extension)
  • Outer Firth of Forth and Outer St Andrews Bay complex
  • Bluemull and Colgrave Sounds
  • East Mainland Coast Shetland
  • Sound of Gigha
  • Coll and Tiree
  • Rum
  • West Coast of the Outer Hebrides
Risso's Dolphin
Naturescot has welcomed the move to make 37 per cent of Scotland’s sea protected ©Nicola Hodgins/WDC

And the four new Marine Protected Areas are:

  • North-east Lewis to protect Risso’s dolphins and sandeels.
  • Sea of the Hebrides was assigned to protect  minke whale and baskign sharks and is the largest of the four new MPAs.
  • Shiant East Bank was given the new status to protect sponge habitats and sea fans and a various corals. It is located in the middle of the Minch, the sea which separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland.
  • Southern Trench was assigned to protect the minke whale.

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot’s Interim Director of Nature and Climate Change, said: “The designation of these new sites sees some of our most iconic marine species – such as basking shark, minke whale and Risso’s dolphin included in the MPA network as well as foraging areas for internationally important populations of seabirds, divers and sea ducks.

 Shags ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot
Shags pictured above ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

“The Scottish MPA network now covers 37% of our seas, marking significant progress towards meeting global ambitions for marine conservation and ensuring a nature-rich future for Scotland, as well as offering locations where people can engage with and experience world-class wildlife.

“We are committed to working with others to ensure the MPA network and our wider seas are well-managed and monitored so that they can contribute to addressing the decline in nature, and help build resilience in the face of climate change.”