A Marine Protected Area (MPA) network is designed to conserve a scientific selection of areas which have either/both marine biodiversity (species and habitats) and geodiversity (the variety of landforms and natural processes that underpin the marine landscapes), offering long-term support for the services our seas provide to society.
The Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act both contain new powers to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These contribute to a range of measures to manage and protect our seas for current and future generations, or to allow them the space from human activity to recover to the state they should be to remain healthy and productive.
In Scotland there are already many existing protected areas in our seas. These range from:
- 47 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for colonies of seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes
- 46 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for species and habitats such as bottlenose dolphin, coral reefs and seals (one of these, Hatton Bank for reefs, is the largest in Europe)
- 94 Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the further protection of species from seabirds and seals to habitats from sea caves and rocky shores.
New Nature Conservation MPAs (more below) are being identified for species, habitats and geology that the Scottish Government and its scientific advisers believe do not have enough protection through these existing protected areas.
Also, the benefits of MPAs is not limited to the environment - they can also add to the protection of Scotland’s outstanding marine cultural heritage through Historic MPAs for the protection of historical sea-wrecks.
- 33 Nature Conservation MPA proposals have now been developed and a further 4 MPA search locations remain to be fully assessed. (The Nature Conservation MPAs which are currently being developed and will be consulted on during summer/autumn 2013).
- Were every one of these proposals taken forward for designation, the new MPAs would represent 11% of the area of Scotland’s seas.
- Of the 41 MPA search features listed in the MPA Selection Guidelines, 38 are adequately represented by the evolving MPA network. Work intended to address the adequacy of the remaining three features will continue.
Joint Statement by UK Administrations on Developing an Ecologically Coherent Network
The UK administrations are committed to establishing an ecologically coherent network of MPAs. A statement agreed with all administrations has been produced to explain what this means in the UK.