Presence of key features


At stage 1 in the process, MPA search locations were identified based on the presence of key features. Prior to this, an assessment of the contribution that existing protected areas and other area-based measures in Scotland’s seas make to the conservation of those key features were assessed to avoid duplicating protection for features already considered to be adequately protected.


Defining a list of ‘key features’

Deep sea sponge aggregations Faroe-Shetland Channel © JNCC

Key features were broadly defined as MPA search features – those Priority Marine Features (PMFs) for which MPAs are considered the most appropriate conservation mechanism.


In addition to those MPA search features derived from the PMF list, a series of large-scale features have been included to help build ecosystem function into the development of the network. These large-scale features include banks, mounds and deeps of the Scottish continental shelf as well as seamounts in the deep waters to the west of Scotland. These are features that may be of wider significance to the health and diversity of Scotland’s seas.


The MPA search features are listed in Annex 3 of the MPA Selection Guidelines and an overview of the characteristics and distribution of each feature is available as an interim report.


What do existing measures already afford to the protection of MPA search features?

MPA search feature priorities were identified by assessing the contribution made to conserving MPA search features by existing protected areas such as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and other area-based measures such as areas with fisheries management.


This piece of work has been undertaken by JNCC and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the respective reports that detail work on the contribution of existing protected areas and other area based measures to the MPA network are available through Marine Scotland's website.


Looking for Nature Conservation MPA development opportunities around locations already subject to management

Minke whale © Peter Evans Seawatch Foundation

The Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines state that MPA search locations should be identified first and foremost by assessing the additional contribution that existing protected areas and other area-based measures could make to the MPA network. As such, work on the contribution of existing protected areas and other area-based measures also considered whether there are opportunities for the development of a Nature Conservation MPA around locations where existing protected areas, for example, either border or do not currently afford adequate protection to priority MPA search features.




Looking in least damaged/more natural locations before applying the Selection Guidelines more widely

In addition to this, the guidelines state that the stages in the Selection Guidelines should be applied to least damaged/more natural locations first before being applied more widely. Least damaged/more natural locations are those places in Scotland’s seas currently used the least by sea users. Work to identify least damaged/ more natural locations has been undertaken by JNCC and SNH.


Considering opportunities around existing protected areas and other area-based measures, as well as least damaged/more natural locations, led to the development of 31 initial MPA search locations. These were discussed and refined at the third national stakeholder workshop led by Marine Scotland. The workshop guide and overview paper produced for this workshop provide an overview of the MPA search locations discussed with stakeholders. A final workshop report has been produced which shows how the initial MPA search locations were refined as part of stakeholder discussions.                                   


Identifying MPA search locations to address remaining MPA search feature priorities

To complete stage 1, additional MPA search locations were identified to address the remaining MPA search feature priorities not addressed through the consideration of enhancement opportunities to existing protected areas and other area-based measures, or least damaged/more natural locations. These were discussed at a fourth stakeholder workshop in March 2012. The stage 2 guidelines were then applied to prioritise the MPA search locations taken forward based on the qualities of the features they contain.