Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are recognised around the world as a proven tool for enhancing marine biodiversity and protecting vulnerable parts of our ocean.

Here in Scotland, our existing MPA network consists of Nature Conservation MPAs, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). In total there are around 180 sites – with varying levels of management in place.

In 2014 the Scottish government designated a network of 30 Nature Conservation MPAs off Scotland’s coast via the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. 17 of these were inshore sites (from the coastline out to 12nm) and 13 of the sites were offshore MPAs (beyond 12nm and out to 200nm, which is known as our “Exclusive Economic Zone”).

In November 2016 the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, designated an additional and unique MPA – the Fair Isle Demonstration & Research MPA, Scotland’s first and currently only DR MPA.

In May 2017, due to an incident where a sensitive flame shell reef was destroyed by damaging fishing activity, another NC MPA was designated within Loch Carron.

Our MPAs provide extremely important and valuable steps toward the sustainable management of our seas. This process is hopefully laying some groundwork for a future where we live in harmony with our environment – currently more sites are being designated and importantly, reviews will open up on the sites already established.

Across Scotland, communities are responding to these designations – whether they are proposing sites themselves or responding to the government’s plans – there is an historical opportunity which exists right now for you and your community to get involved!

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