Consultation on possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas in Scotland’s seas


Consultation now closed


Marine Scotland's consultation "Planning Scotland's Seas" has now closed.  All responses on MPAs submitted to Marine Scotland have been logged and will be used to inform the consultation report for Scottish Ministers.  Following completion, the report will be considered by Scottish Ministers, who will decide which sites to designate.


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Coral gardens. Colourful and diverse coral garden communities on Anton Dohrn Seamount, west of Scotland. © JNCC

Scotland’s dynamic marine environment sustains a diversity of animals and plants, as well as providing a range of services to society, including the provision of food, renewable energy, leisure and recreational activities. MPAs help safeguard our marine habitats and wildlife while supporting the range of commercial and recreational activities through applying the principle of sustainable use. 

On 25th July 2013, Marine Scotland launched its public consultation on ‘Planning Scotland’s Seas’ of which the possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scotland’s seas was one strand. During the consultation, 56 stakeholder public events and drop-in sessions took place around Scotland, providing information about the consultation, and the opportunity for stakeholders and members of the public to discuss the proposals.  The consultation closed on 13th November 2013.  Further information is available on Marine Scotland's website.



Seamount communities of the Hebrides Terrace seamount

The possible Nature Conservation MPA proposals

In November 2012, JNCC and SNH submitted a report to Scottish Government on the selection of Nature Conservation MPAs for the development of the Scottish MPA network. Through the application of the MPA Selection Guidelines, 33 possible Nature Conservation MPAs were identified across the Scottish marine environment, as well as four areas that remained as MPA search locations in territorial waters. There are a number of options for developing the network. Our advice recommends that at least 29 of the 33 possible MPAs are designated, along with MPAs derived from the remaining search locations, to meet obligations under the UK and Scottish Marine Acts and contribute to an ecologically coherent network of MPAs. Marine Scotland sought views on all 33 possible MPAs during the public consultation.


For each of the possible Nature Conservation MPAs, JNCC and SNH have produced:

  • A site summary document  - providing a brief overview of the site and the proposed protected features
  • A data confidence assessment  - setting out our confidence in the presence and extent of the proposed protected features
  • A detailed assessment against the MPA selection guidelines - detailing the application of the five stages of the Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines
  • Management options papers - considering the management options for achieving the conservation objectives for each of the proposed protected features in the possible MPA 

Please note that where we have identified international interests in some of the possible Nature Conservation MPAs, a summary of the Management Options Papers has been produced and translated. These summary documents are available here.


Possible Nature Conservation MPA proposals in offshore waters

The map shows the location of the possible Nature Conservation MPAs in Scotland’s seas that were included in the public consultation in 2013. JNCC has led on the identification of possible MPAs in offshore waters (beyond 12 nautical miles).  Information on each of the 16 possible Nature Conservation MPAs in offshore waters is available using the page links below.

SNH lead on the identification of Nature Conservation MPAs in territorial waters (0-12 nautical miles).  Information on possible Nature Conservation MPAs in territorial waters are available on SNH's website.


Possible MPAs and MPA search locations


Sponge communities of the Faroe-Shetland ChannelDeveloping management measures for possible Nature Conservation MPAs

The aim of managing Nature Conservation MPAs is to ensure the protected features achieve their conservation objectives and that sites operate as a network. The Scottish MPA Project management handbook sets out the approach for identifying and implementing any required management measures for Nature Conservation MPAs. The handbook, the Feature Activity SEnsitivity Tool (FEAST) and guidance on developing fisheries measures, as well as discussions with stakeholders, has informed the development of management options papers for each possible Nature Conservation MPA.



Following a decision by Ministers to approve a site for designation, Marine Scotland will consider in more detail how these sites might best be managed. If Ministers decide that a statutory measure (e.g. a fisheries order) is needed to deliver management, then a separate consultation will be held. The aim of this will be to gather views on the specific management measures being proposed. Consultation on management measures will take place from 2014 onwards.