Waves at Teignmouth
© Natasha Ewins / MCS

Europe’s largest Marine Protected Area to be created off the West Coast of Scotland

Date posted: 28 September 2020

On Friday (25th September 2020), Scotland’s Natural Environment Minister, Mairi Gougeon, announced plans to create the new West of Scotland Marine Protected Area (MPA). Covering an area of more than 100,000 square kilometres, this will be the largest MPA in national waters in the entire North-East Atlantic.

Coral in Scotland
© Calum Duncan

We welcome the leadership on this vast offshore site demonstrated today, but if global ambition is to be truly met, we urgently need further action, including designating the promised sites and protecting existing sites from damaging fishing activity

Calum Duncan,
Head of Conservation Scotland

Ms Gougeon said: “Scotland’s deep-sea waters are home to a number of threatened species and habitats including coral gardens and deep-sea sharks.

“The designation of this site will address one of the last gaps in our MPA network and will be key in achieving the international target of 10% of the world’s oceans covered by an MPA by the end of 2020.

“Protecting Scotland’s marine environment is crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our marine industries. This designation will also form a key element of our Blue Economy Action Plan, which we committed to developing in our Programme for Government.”

MPAs are areas of sea set up to look after particular seascapes, habitats and species, just like nature reserves and national parks on land. This new MPA will protect some of the most vulnerable species in the world, as it covers deep sea habitats, home to fragile sea beds, deep-sea sharks, coral gardens, and a huge diversity of other fauna.

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement on the Deep-Sea Marine Reserve which will add value to existing measures by protecting the entirety of Anton Dohrn seamount and deep-sea sharks. However, we are getting mixed messages. On the one hand the Scottish Government are setting a bold and transformative agenda for nature on the global stage, whilst on the other, several years after receiving scientific advice to do so, we still await vital sites to protect basking sharks, whales, dolphins, seabirds and other habitats that have been repeatedly promised.

“We welcome the leadership on this vast offshore site demonstrated today, but if global ambition is to be truly met, we urgently need further action, including designating the promised sites and protecting existing sites from damaging fishing activity.”

If implemented and managed successfully, the West of Scotland MPA will be a welcome addition to an already growing network of more than 300 MPAs around the UK, with a further 41 Marine Conservation Zones soon to be designated in English waters following last year’s consultation and our campaign.

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