Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Marine Protected Areas are recognised globally and used here in Scotland as one way to support our marine environment.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) protect a wide range of habitats, species, geology and undersea landforms in Scottish waters.

The development of the MPA network has been progressed between Marine Scotland, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Natural England, Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and NatureScot, working with a wide range of marine stakeholders. We provide guidance and technical advice to Marine Scotland and others on MPAs as part of our role.

Find out more by reading information about the Scottish MPA network. Explore the background to the NCMPA selections and the marine SPA selections. Details of our role and the advice we provide are on the MPA advice page. You can also discover more about individual sites through our SiteLink pages and learn about our Survey and Monitoring work

Update on MPAs

The Red Rocks and Longay Urgent MPA for flapper skate was announced on 10 March 2021 by Scottish Ministers. Further information including NatureScot’s advice and the MPA boundary can be found on the Marine Scotland’s MPA announcement webpages and on our SiteLink webpageFlapper skate are critically endangered and the citizen scientists’ discovery of egg-laying habitat, with dense numbers of eggs in the Inner Sound of Skye, is a first for this species. Interim measures for protection will come into force on 17th March through an urgent Marine Conservation Order, whilst further survey work and assessment is carried out to support permanent protection. This site will make a significant contribution to the conservation of our largest skate species. 

On the 3rd December 2020, Scottish Ministers announced the designation of four further Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (NCMPA) and twelve Special Protection Areas (SPA). These new designations include protection of important areas for seabirds, waders, divers and seaducks, basking shark, Risso's dolphin and minke whale alongside other features:

NCMPAs: North East Lewis, Shiant East Bank, Sea of the Hebrides, Southern Trench.

SPAs: Solway Firth, Outer Firth of Forth and St Andrews Bay Complex, Seas off Foula, Seas off St Kilda, Moray Firth, Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch, Bluemull and Colgrave Sounds, Coll and Tiree, East Mainland Coast Shetland, Sound of Gigha, West Coast of the Outer Hebrides, Rum.

Scotland’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) now consists of 244 sites, with 230 for conservation purposes, providing protection to 37% of our seas. This means Scotland is providing a significant contribution to the Global Ocean Alliance ambition and the expected Convention on Biodiversity target of reaching 30% global ocean protection by 2030 – often known as 30by30

Please visit Marine Scotland's webpage to view the Consultation Analysis Report and Post SEA Post Adoption Statement for the new NC MPA designations.  Read the new marine SPA designations Consultation Report and final advice to Scottish Government. Additional relevant documents can be found on the Marine Scotland consultation hub and on the closed consultation page.

On 25 September 2020 Scottish Ministers announced the designation of the West of Scotland MPA in offshore waters and it will safeguard deep sea sharks, cold-water corals, coral gardens and a diversity of other fauna. This is the largest MPA in UK waters and you can explore the site by watching this JNCC video.

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