Offshore Marine Regulations 2017

Certain marine species found more than 12 nautical miles from Scotland’s coastline are protected under the Offshore Marine Regulations 2017.

The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2017 implement the species protection requirements of the Habitats and Birds Directives offshore (more than 12 nautical miles from the coast).

The Offshore Marine Regulations apply to:

  • the offshore marine area
  • offshore marine installations
  • certain ships and crafts

The protection given by this legislation is not the same as the protection given species found in Scotland’s territorial (inshore) waters.

You can see our summary of offences in relation to marine protected species below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Schedules to the Offshore Marine Regulations

The schedules attached to the Offshore Marine Regulations categorise the protection given to certain species:

  • Schedule 1 – European protected species of animals
  • Schedule 2 – Excluded populations of certain species
  • Schedule 3 – Animals which may not be taken or killed in certain ways


Under Part 3 of the Offshore Marine Regulations, it is an offence to:

  • deliberately capture, kill or injure a wild European protected species or any wild bird
  • deliberately damage or destroy a bird’s nest while it is in use or being built
  • damage or destroy, or cause deterioration of, the breeding sites or resting places of a European protected species
  • deliberately take or destroy the eggs of a European protected species or any wild bird
  • deliberately disturb a European protected species (in particular disturbance likely to impair its ability to survive, breed, reproduce, nurture young, migrate or hibernate, or which might affect significantly its local distribution or abundance)
  • keep, transport, sell or exchange living or dead specimens or items derived from a bird or any species of plant or animal listed on Annex IV of the Habitats Directive

It is also illegal to use with any European protected species, wild bird species or Schedule 3 species:

  • certain methods of killing or taking
  • any means of capturing or killing that’s indiscriminate and able to cause the local disappearance of, or serious disturbance to, a population


There are various exceptions to – or defences against – the offences set out by the legislation, including:

  • tending to injured animals and birds
  • humane destruction and disposal of seriously injured animals and birds that have no reasonable chance of recovery
  • holding a licence

You will have to prove that there was no satisfactory alternative and that your actions were compatible with the species being maintained at a favourable conservation status.


Scottish Ministers may grant licences to permit activities that would otherwise constitute an offence under the Offshore Marine Regulations.

Before a licence can be issued:

  • certain tests must be passed – these vary according to the species concerned
  • the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) must advise on whether or not a licence should be granted

JNCC may approach NatureScot for advice on some occasions – for example, where a licence application affects species using inshore waters as well as offshore waters.

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