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Priority marine features in Scotland's seas

Priority marine features (PMFs) are habitats and species that we consider to be marine nature conservation priorities in Scottish waters.

In July 2014, Scottish Ministers adopted a list of 81 priority marine features (PMFs) – many of which are features characteristic of the Scottish marine environment. PMFs range from flame shell beds in our coastal waters to the cold-water coral reefs of our deeper seas and mobile species such as minke whale and basking shark.

Read about Priority Marine Features in Scotland’s Seas and the Descriptions of Scottish Priority Marine Features (PMFs): SNH Commissioned Report No. 406

View our priority marine feature videos

Other protection

PMFs may also be protected under legislation or by other designations.

View a table summarising other designations and listings for each priority marine feature.

How the list is used

The list helps to deliver Marine Scotland’s vision for marine nature conservation, as set out in A Strategy for Marine Nature Conservation in Scotland’s Seas

The list will be used to help:

  • focus future conservation action and marine planning
  • direct research and education
  • promote a consistent approach to marine nature conservation advice

Why the list was developed

Scotland’s coasts and seas are among the most biologically productive in the world. They support an estimated 8,000 species of plants and animals – and up to 40,000 species if you include microscopic organisms. New species are still being discovered, particularly in deeper waters to the north and west.

How the list was developed

Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee worked with Marine Scotland to develop the list.

To produce the list, we assessed species and habitats on existing conservation schedules against criteria that considered:

  • whether the species/habitat occurs in significant numbers in Scotland’s seas
  • whether the species/habitat is under threat or in decline
  • the functional role that the species/habitat plays

The process and list were developed in consultation with a range of specialists, including through targeted external peer review in 2010. The list was also subject to public consultation in 2013.

Read the Priority Marine Features in Scottish territorial waters: External peer review feedback

Find out more about the process in:


Priority Marine Features Guidance

Our PMF Guidance provides SNH staff with guidance on handling development proposals with potential to impact upon PMFs.

Supporting information for PMF guidance:

Descriptions of Scottish PMFs

The PMF casework checklist (also embedded within full guidance)

PMF casework flowchart with possible conclusions (also embedded within full guidance)

PMFs as protected species and protected features/qualifying interests of designated sites

Information/data sources for PMFs

Suggested wording for cases affecting PMFs