TWO locations in Scotland have been chosen as the area for the preservation and protection of vulnerable seabirds.
The area, larger than the size of Edinburgh and Glasgow combined, has been designated as marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Scapa Flow and North Orkney, covering a total area of 529 square kilometres, have been designated to protect rare and vulnerable migratory wild birds, which include the great northern diver and Slavonian grebe.
These new designations largely complete the network of SPAs, with fourteen sites across Scotland’s seas.
These come as the result of 10 years of gathering and assessing evidence, jointly undertaken by Marine Scotland, NatureScot and Joint Nature Conservation Committee to identify and support the designation of marine areas critical for 31 species of marine birds.
The commitment to enhance marine environmental protection is part of the Bute House Agreement, a shared programme agreed between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party Parliamentary Group.
Announcing the sites on a visit to Orkney, Minister for Environment and Land Reform Mairi McAllan said:
“Scotland has some of the most beautiful, diverse and important marine ecosystems in the world and it is imperative that we protect and enhance them.
“Designations such as these ensure some of the most vulnerable seabird species and their habitats are afforded the protection they need not just for today but for future generations.
“Scotland’s marine environment is also crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our maritime industries and these designations will play a pivotal role in it.
“This marks the culmination of a great deal of work and I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts, for the designations in Orkney, which largely completes Scotland’s SPA network.”
Leader of Orkney Islands Council James Stockan said:
“This has undoubtedly been a long-running process – but one which provides a great example of the value of robust negotiation and constructive discussion between the Scottish Government and Orkney Islands Council.
“Having challenged the initial proposals, we worked alongside Government officials to reach a mutually agreeable solution that was more in keeping with Orkney’s needs.
“We believe that the designations are now more accurate and achieve a dual purpose of supporting future development of our vital maritime industries, whilst also protecting our local ecosystems.”