Scotland's iconic species get cash boost from Government

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 31 January 2018

The Scottish Government has announced additional resources for the development of four nature conservation marine protected areas (MPAs) including some for Scotland’s most iconic mobile species.

Basking Shark
© Paul Naylor

We commend the Scottish Government’s commitment to speed up progress on Scotland’s MPA network, which along with welcome existing commitments, will help ensure healthy seas now and tomorrow

Calum Duncan,
MCS Head of Conservation, Scotland

If designated the MPAs would be the world’s first sites for minke whale, basking shark and Risso’s dolphin, and would see the introduction of area-based measures that should provide greater protection than surrounding areas of sea.

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation for MCS in Scotland says the £200,000 will accelerate delivery of these four nature conservation MPAs.

“We commend the Scottish Government’s commitment to speed up progress on Scotland’s MPA network, which along with welcome existing commitments, will help ensure healthy seas now and tomorrow,” said Calum.

“These four MPAs are urgently needed to fill gaps in the network, particularly for the endangered basking shark and other iconic species, but also for sandeels, seafan and sponge habitats and landscape-scale features important for the wider health of Scotland’s seas, provided they become well-managed.”

The four MPAs - Sea of the Hebrides MPA, Shiant East Bank MPA, North-East Lewis MPA and Southern Trench MPA – were first proposed in 2012, but were not taken forward at the time as more evidence was needed.

Recent research by the University of Exeter, in collaboration with MCS, demonstrated the global significance of the Sea of the Hebrides MPA for basking sharks in 2016. Wherever they roam in our waters, basking sharks have protection from disturbance under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, but these gentle giants would benefit from MPA protection in hotspots where they are known to congregate.

Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Government’s conservation advisory body, provided this additional information and formally recommended the designation of all four sites in 2014 towards completion of the MPA network.

Basking sharks are currently listed as officially endangered in the North East Atlantic on the IUCN Red List of species, and are a species of conservation importance in Scottish and wider UK waters. Whilst the EU Conservation Status of UK minke whale is ‘favourable’, Risso’s dolphin is ‘unknown’.

Sarah Dolman, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, vice-convenor LINK Marine Group: “We are delighted with this news! We were proud to provide Scottish Government with more than 36,000 postcards supporting whale and dolphin MPAs, alongside our own scientific evidence back in 2012. These MPAs will be world-firsts – including for Risso’s dolphins, where WDC have been studying their little-known calving and feeding behaviour off Lewis since 2010.”

Dr Sam Collin, Marine Planning Officer, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “There is wealth of research pointing to the significance of these areas for species including basking sharks and minke whale so we’re very pleased that the Scottish Government has now committed to moving these new Marine Protected Areas forward.

Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, Science and Policy Officer, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust: “We are absolutely thrilled to hear that the Scottish Government plans to progress these important MPAs which will help protect Scotland’s iconic mobile species. Our research on cetaceans and basking sharks on the west coast of Scotland has helped provide the scientific evidence needed to support these sites.

MPAs are recognised as an effective conservation tool globally, and with the right management measures in place can provide much needed spatial protection to highly mobile species as well as seabed habitats.

Although cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are strictly protected under European Law, MPAs can help protect areas that contain significant numbers of animals, or are essential to key life cycle stages – such as calving, feeding or breeding.

Actions you can take

  1. Browse Scotland's Marine Atlas
  2. Browse Marine Protected Areas
  3. Report your wildlife sightings
  4. Find out more about Scottish Wildlife

Did you know?…

Scotland has 10% of Europe’s coastline

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’