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All seals and cetaceans found within Scottish waters are protected by a range of national and international obligations. This section provides a brief summary of some of these obligations.
All cetaceans are listed in Annex IV of the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)
as species being in need of strict protection. Under Article 12 of the Habitats Directive, it is an offence to deliberately capture, kill or disturb cetaceans; or to cause deterioration or destruction to their breeding or resting places. In addition, Article 12 requires that Member States establish a system to monitor the incidental capture and killing of all cetaceans, and to take measures to ensure that incidental capture and killing does not have a significant negative impact on the species concerned." Member States also have a duty to ensure that any measures taken are designed to maintain and restore wild species at a favourable conservation status.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
provides for the protection of all cetaceans found within UK territorial waters. Under Section 9 of the Act, it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take cetaceans; and to cause damage or destruction to certain areas used by cetaceans for shelter and protection, or to intentionally disturb animals occupying such areas.
- The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, which was launched on November 29 2004, contains measures to improve the existing species protection offered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, including the extension of existing protections for cetaceans from intentional disturbance to encompass protection from 'reckless' disturbance in line with that offered by the CROW Act 2000 in England and Wales.
The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas
(ASCOBANS) was set up under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and came into force in March 1994. The Agreement was drawn up to co-ordinate and implement conservation measures for small cetaceans in the North and Baltic Seas. The Agreement requires Member States to make efforts towards reducing pollution, bycatch in fishing nets, and disturbance by recreational and seismic activities.
- The Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) introduced significant changes to seal legislation, with enhanced seal protection measures balanced by appropriate management under a new licensing system.
- Under the Council Directive 92/43/EC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (the 'Habitats Directive') both common and grey seals are identified as protected species for which Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) must be designated. Within SACs, steps must be taken to preserve the conservation status of both native seal species. The Habitats Directive provides additional restrictions on methods of taking or killing seals, which are listed in Annex V(a) of the EC Habitats Directive.
Page updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2011