Scottish Marine Protected Area advice

Explore the advice from NatureScot on Marine Protected Areas

Our role and advice on MPAs

NatureScot provides guidance and technical advice on MPAs including advice:

  • on the selection of MPAs
  • on how the conservation objectives of an MPA may be achieved
  • on activities that may cause damage 
  • to support management
  • on consultation queries

Advice on new designations

In 2020, following Marine Scotland public consultations, four further NC MPAs were designated in territorial waters, selected for mobile species, alongside other features, and support aggregations of minke whaleRisso’s dolphin and basking shark and are important for feeding and socialisation. In addition, twelve marine SPAs were designated to help protect marine birds, as well as the rich feeding grounds and sheltered waters on which they depend. A further two marine SPAs that were also consulted on are awaiting a classification decision. For further information including the consultation reports please read the Update on MPAs.

 For each of the new NC MPAs we produced supporting documents, detailed below, which can be viewed on our SiteLink pages:

  • Site summary – Short non-technical leaflet giving overview of site and features
  • Data Confidence Assessments – details of data used to support selection
  • Detailed assessment against the guidelines – information for each feature for each stage in selection process
  • Conservation and Management Advice documents, including sections on:
    • Overview and Conservation Benefits
    • Roles and responsibilities
    • Features and their condition 
    • Feature sensitivity
    • Advice to support management
    • Conservation Objectives

Work is underway to produce Conservation and Management Advice documents for marine SACs and SPAs. For each marine SPA draft advice to support management documents were produced as part of the consultation process. These documents are provided for information until the updated Conservation and Management Advice documents are completed. 

Advice on marine activities

Development Management Advice

Our Planning and Development pages provide further information on our role in the Planning system and where you can find our Service Statement. Our Marine Planning pages provide further detail on the system in the marine environment, including links to the National Marine Plan which is used to guide development. Further sector and topic based information can be found on our Managing Coasts and Seas page.

Development Management and Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Guidance is being updated and will be available at the end of 2020.

This guidance assists our staff in providing advice to public authorities to help them when making their decisions over whether activities or developments affect NC MPAs. The guidance follows the assessment process as set out in the MPA Management Handbook.

Also read our guidance on How to consider plans and projects affecting Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

Marine Fisheries Advice

Our advice on fishering activity within MPAs is linked to our wider approach to sustainable fisheries but focusses on the specific interactions between fishing and marine biodiversity. Read our Fisheries pages to find out more about our role.

Our advice to support MPA fisheries management can be viewed in Conservation Objectives and Management Advice Documents on SiteLink. In addition a series of short Fisheries Management Guidance summaries were produced for the protected features of MPAs. These have been produced jointly with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Fisheries Guidance Notes have also been produced for the features within four newly designated NC MPAs.

In February 2014, SNH provided advice to Marine Scotland on the sensitivity of European Marine Sites (EMS) to the impacts of fishing activities. The aim was to help Marine Scotland work out where further management may be required.

Read the Assessment on the sensitivity of EMS to fishing activities

Information on fisheries management measures in place within MPAs can be found on the Marine Scotland webpages. Compliance with marine fisheries measures in Scotland is the responsibility of Marine and Fisheries Compliance and their web pages explain how to report suspicious activity.

Additional Advice

Adequacy of Scotland’s MPA network

Read the Assessment of the adequacy of the Scottish MPA network for MPA search features which was undertaken in 2015 against stage 5 of the MPA Selection Guidelines.

The assessment against this guideline has been completed for the MPA search features in terms of how the below have been met for these features:

  • representation
  • replication
  • resilience
  • range and geographic variation of features
  • key linkages

Read the NC MPA selection page for further information on the initial NC MPAs designated in 2013. 

Last updated: