Consultation on expanding Scotland’s protected marine areas under SNP-Greens deal launched

Scotland would become the first country in the world to have at least 10 per cent of its coastal waters designated as highly-protected marine areas under policy plans that have gone out for consultation.

The agreement with the Scottish Greens that secured the Government majority in Holyrood stipulated at least 10 per cent of Scotland’s waters would be afforded highly protected marine area (HPMA) status.

The Scottish Government has subsequently on Monday launched a consultation on the proposals.

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Under Government plans, HPMAs will be defined as “designated areas of the sea that are strictly protected to allow the marine eco-systems within to recover and thrive”.

Scotland is a stronghold for the critically endangered flapper skate, as shown in this underwater footage clipScotland is a stronghold for the critically endangered flapper skate, as shown in this underwater footage clip
Scotland is a stronghold for the critically endangered flapper skate, as shown in this underwater footage clip

Ministers also announced their intentions to permanently designate Red Rocks and Longay off Skye as a marine protected area, owing to the presence of the endangered flapper skate.

Speaking at the COP15 biodiversity summit on Monday, environment minister Mairi McAllan said: “Scotland has some of the most beautiful and diverse marine eco-systems on the planet and we are committed to safeguarding them.

“As we develop this landmark HPMA network consultation, I would urge everyone with an interest in our precious marine environment, blue economy and coastal communities, to take part.

“Marine protected areas are an important way to ensure protection of some of the most vulnerable species and habitats and, while launching this new HPMA network consultation, I am also pleased to confirm it is my intention to permanently designate the Red Rocks and Longay MPA, following public consultation, to safeguard the future of the critically endangered flapper skate.

“Scotland’s MPA network extends to over a third of our seas, and I am today setting out how we intend to go even further by designating at least 10 per cent of our seas as highly protected marine areas – a world-leading commitment.

“Here in Scotland, and across the world, we are facing a biodiversity crisis and therefore we hope that other countries will match this ambition and commit to protect 30×30 at COP15.”

Flapper skate – the largest of all European skates and rays – are a critically endangered species. They were historically abundant in the North-east Atlantic, but are now only found in the northern North Sea and off Scotland’s north-west coast.

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Scotland’s wider network of marine protected areas (MPAs) consists of 244 sites, covering 37 per cent of the country’s seas. The consultation will close on March 20.

Scottish Green coastal communities spokesperson Ariane Burgess said: “These bold plans represent a seismic shift for Scotland’s marine biodiversity. They will see key parts of our seas and coasts dedicated to the protection and restoration of nature, protecting them from exploitation and destruction.

"Highly protected marine areas will be special places, protected for the good of current and future generations for their local, national and global importance. They will also play a critical role underpinning the restoration of healthy fish populations and supporting the development of a sustainable fisheries sector.”



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