Scotland Marine Protected Area

Scotland Marine Protected Area

Case Study by: Mike Eklund

When one thinks of Scotland, one typically thinks of the beautifully preserved landscape that makes the country so unique.  In addition to the conservation efforts on its soil, Scotland has been at the forefront of marine conservation ever since the implementation of the Marine (Scotland) Act of 2010 passed by the Scottish Parliament.  The bill provides a framework that helps balance competing demands for Scotland’s seas by introducing a duty to help protect and maintain the environment.

The Act is comprehensive, effectively applying some form of protection to 100% of waters around Scotland. In addition, because Scotland’s territorial waters constitute 60% of the sea area of the United Kingdom (UK) (therefore representing a significant proportion of European Union (EU) maritime territory), this is an excellent example of Nature Needs Half applied to near-and off-shore marine areas – and likely one of the most comprehensive of any single jurisdiction in the northern hemisphere.

© Government of Scotland

The maritime area is to be protected through a three-pillar approach:  Pillar 1 involves the conservation of local wildlife protected under Annex IV and V of the EU habitats Directive (this includes all species of cetaceans as well as turtles and some fish).  Pillar 2 involves site protection and the designation of protected areas within the maritime territory.  Lastly, Pillar 3 involves the implementation of environmental protection measures for sectors such as sea fisheries and other industries that heavily rely on the sea.

Scottish Coastline © Scott Hoiland

The Marine (Scotland) Act provides measures to boost economic investment in areas such as marine renewables.  The main measures of the Marine (Scotland) Act include: marine planning, a new statutory planning system to sustainably manage the often-conflicting demands of the sea; marine licensing, the implementation of a simpler licensing system in order to reduce bureaucracy and increase economic investment; marine conservation, by enhancing marine nature and historic conservation with added powers to protect areas of particular importance; seal conservation, with added protection for seals; and lastly, enforcement, through enhanced powers of marine conservation and licensing.

Common Seal © Wild Scotland

Many different types of marine protected areas are used in this system, each with their own specific purpose.  Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) can be designated under the habitats directives to protect marine habitats and species of European importance including reefs, sandbanks, bottlenose dolphin and seals.  Special Protected Areas (SPAs) are areas designated and devoted to the protection of certain species of birds that inhabit the coastal areas of Scotland.  Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) offer protection above mean low water spring tides mark and are designed to protect intertidal species and habitats.  Nature Conservation MPAs are designed to protect biodiversity and geodiversity in Scottish territorial waters.  Demonstration & Research MPAs are designed to demonstrate or research new approaches to sustainable management of marine resources in Scottish territorial waters.  Lastly, Historic MPAs are designed to protect historical assets of national importance in Scottish territorial waters such as important historic shipwrecks.  The Marine (Scotland) Act is designed to coincide with other marine protected areas and other conservation efforts within the European Union.  Many of the provisions are designed to address national, regional, and international commitments to marine conservation.

Whale Dolphin © British Broadcasting Corporation

With these policies being implemented in recent years, Scotland has become a leader in marine conservation, while at the same time leaving room for economic growth.  The Marine (Scotland) Act allows for greater power when it comes to meeting domestic and international commitments to conservation, and will continue to have a positive impact on the geodiversity and biodiversity of the region.  With more MPAs being established in Scottish waters every year, we will continue to see the positive impacts of the legislation for years to come.

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