Sharks, whales and dolphins could benefit from more marine protected areas

In addition to the 30 marine protected areas (MPAs) in Scottish waters announced last week, a further four sites could benefit species of whales, dolphins and sharks. This is according to a new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

© SNH - Paul Naylor

Basking Shark © SNH – Paul Naylor

The report follows the announcement of 30 MPAs by Scottish Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead resulting from the public consultation which saw 99% of respondents in favour of an MPA network around Scotland.

After further research, SNH has published advice on a further four MPA proposals for Minke whales, Risso’s dolphins and basking sharks, species which are not included in the suite of 30 sites.

The new sites are in the Sea of the Hebrides, at North-east Lewis, the Southern Trench and Shiant East Bank, in the North Minch.

Ministers are considering this advice which may become the subject of a future public consultation. Other features that could benefit from the additional four sites include sandeels, sea fan and sponge communities and geological features such as iceberg scours, troughs and moraines.

Ron Macdonald, director of policy and advice at SNH said: “Scotland has one of the longest coastlines in Europe. The sea has always sustained the country economically and it is crucial to our future prosperity. In terms of wildlife, habitats and geology, Scotland’s marine environment is as diverse and dramatic as the land.

“We have a duty to help ensure Scotland continues to benefit economically from the sea and that this vital resource is managed sustainably for generations to come. That is what marine protected areas are really about. If confirmed these four additional MPAs could help these amazing animals which clearly thrive in Scottish waters and attract many visitors each year.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Government has also adopted SNH’s and JNCC’s list of Priority Marine Features (PMFs). This list will help focus future marine planning, research and conservation work.

Ron Macdonald added: “We are extremely grateful to the many individuals and groups who have contributed to this work. Their input was hugely helpful in shaping our advice to Marine Scotland and Ministers on the suite of sites, possible MPAs and PMF list announced today.”

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