Head of Marine Environment
Marine Scotland is a Directorate of The Scottish Government and is responsible for the integrated management of Scotland’s seas. Marine Scotland’s purpose is to manage Scotland’s seas for prosperity and environmental sustainability, working closely with our key delivery partners including Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Marine Scotland includes policy, science and compliance functions for marine planning, environment, fisheries and a range of other marine activities.
The Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Project was a joint initiative led by Marine Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Government’s advisors (Scottish Natural Heritage, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Historic Scotland, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Marine Scotland Science).
The aim of the Project was to provide advice to Scottish Ministers on the selection of MPAs for the purposes of protecting habitats, species and the range of geodiversity considered to be of national importance to Scotland, and contribute to international commitments on MPAs including those under the OSPAR Convention. Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines were developed to reflect best-practice guidance produced by the OSPAR Commission.
A science-led approach was followed from the beginning but it was also considered important to undertake early engagement with stakeholders. One of the first steps was to identify the range of stakeholders that might be affected by the designation of MPAs and take appropriate steps to engage with them. Representative bodies or organisations were the starting point for engagement, along with existing stakeholder fora, and were used to raise awareness of the Scottish MPA Project during the early stages of development.
A series of five national level stakeholder workshops were held, bringing together stakeholder representatives at key milestones in the site selection process. These workshops were supplemented by regular bilateral meetings and communication with key stakeholder groups to maintain dialogue and transparency throughout the process.
As part of workshops discussions, the concept of Management Options Papers emerged. These outlined the risk of achieving the conservation objectives of the protected features under different management scenarios for the range of activities taking place within the sites. Under the Common Fisheries Policy, management measures for fishing activities need to be established through a fair and equitable process. As such, a key element of engagement throughout the project has also been with non-UK fleets.
The public consultation of Nature Conservation MPAs was launched in July 2013 and formed part of Marine Scotland’s wider ‘Planning Scotland’s Seas’ consultation, which also included elements of marine planning and the future of marine renewables. To reflect this, the consultation period was extended from 12 to 16 weeks.
The consultation was supported by a comprehensive program of 56 public events held around Scotland, providing sea users and members of the public the opportunity to find out more about the proposals, as well as presentations and meetings with international stakeholders. The consultation was also complemented by materials to encourage wider engagement, and to help bring the underwater environment and MPAs to life. For example, short videos showing underwater footage proved to be particularly successful.
Earlier in the year between April and July, the MPA Project Team met with a number of mobile, static and dive fishing community interests for individual MPAs at regional mini-workshops around Scotland. There were nine of these, held in: Campbeltown, Troon, Oban, Stornoway, Ullapool, Kirkwall and Lerwick, Mallaig, and Kyle of Lochalsh. These events were focused discussions on management options, primarily to seek feedback on the management options papers and better understand how the fishing sector was operating in the pMPAs as well as to gather further information on the locations of the species and habitats the pMPAs were being designed to protect. A further 2 events were held for offshore waters. The main aim of these events were to maximise industry understanding of how the site options were developed and the evidence used.
Following the consultation, a third series of meeting were held, again in nine coastal locations, as part of a study of the potential effects of fisheries displacement which may occur as a consequence of future MPA management. The meetings were also gathering information and seeking views on possible management that could reduce displacement whilst still achieving conservation objectives. These events were in Troon, Castlebay, Kyle of Lochalsh, Ullapool, Stornoway, Oban, Tarbert, Campbeltown, and Mallaig.
In July 2014 Scottish Ministers announced the designation of the 29 recommended Nature Conservation MPAs in Scotland’s seas, and included an additional Nature Conservation MPA to enhance the protection for ocean quahog (Artica islandica) – an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining species. Figure 4 shows the 30 Nature Conservation MPAs in Scotland’s seas.
Work is ongoing to implement fisheries management measures for the Nature Conservation MPAs and develop a wider MPA monitoring programme. A public consultation on statutory management measures for 20 sites (comprising a mix of inshore MPAs and SACs) was initiated on 11 November 2014 and will close on 2 February 2015. A series of events was organised to raise awareness and provide information on the proposals.