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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Between 25 July and 13 November 2013, Marine Scotland held a public consultation on 'Planning Scotland's Seas' covering the new Marine Protected Areas, marine planning, and the future of marine renewables. For more information on the consultation, please see our MPA consultation web pages. Both SNH & the JNCC have now published their reports on the consultation, please see our SNH MPA advice page .


Scotland (along with the rest of the UK) has designated a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas  (SPAs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest  (SSSIs) and Ramsar sites . The term "MPA" can be used for several different types of protected areas within the marine environment.

The Marine (Scotland) Act external site has established a new power for Marine Protected Areas in the seas around Scotland, to recognise features of national importance and meet international commitments for developing a network of MPAs.  This complements the MPA power introduced through the Marine and Coastal Access Act for offshore waters around Scotland.

Why have new MPAs?

MPAs are an important mechanism for protecting Scotland's seas.  They are one way of helping us to achieve the Government's vision of 'clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas'. Scotland has international commitments to establish an ecologically coherent network of MPAs under OSPAR and the World Summit on Sustainable Development external site . Together with existing Natura sites, the new MPA power will help Scotland to meet these commitments. A network of well-managed MPAs will, alongside other management measures, underpin our future use of the seas around Scotland.

What will MPAs do?

The Act allows for three different types of MPAs to be set up:

  • Nature Conservation MPAs
  • Demonstration and Research MPAs
  • Historic MPAs

Nature Conservation MPAs will protect important marine habitats and wildlife, geology and geomorphology whilst Historic MPAs will protect features of cultural importance such as shipwrecks and submerged landscapes.  The Act also allows other people to put forward proposals for Nature Conservation and Demonstration and Research MPAs.

What is Scottish Natural Heritage's role?

Through the Scottish MPA Project we will provide guidance and technical advice to Marine Scotland external site  on Nature Conservation MPAs.  This will include advice on the selection of Nature Conservation MPAs, how the conservation objectives of an MPA may be achieved and ways to avoid damaging a protected feature.  In some cases we will also provide advice on Demonstration and Research MPAs.  It will then be for Scottish Ministers to decide which sites to designate as MPAs and how they will be managed.

On 1st November 2012, SNH and JNCC submitted formal advice to Marine Scotland on the selection of Nature Conservation MPAs and the development of an ecologically coherent network.

Further information

More information on Scotland's important marine habitats and wildlife is available under coasts and seas and Priority Marine Features .

Last updated on Friday 2nd May 2014 at 15:18 PM. Click here to comment on this page