Marine Scotland has circulated the first Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Newsletter.
The first draft of a Management Handbook has been made available for comment; a second draft is planned to be available shortly incorporating comments that have been received.
SNH/JNCC have delivered scientific advice on nature conservation MPAs to ministers. This advice package, Advice to the Scottish Government on the Selection of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the Development of the Scottish MPA Network is now available online and Scottish Ministers reported to Holyrood on the progress in the development of the network.
The evolving MPA network in Scotland’s seas includes:
- 46 Special Areas of Conservation (and another possible SAC)
- 47 seabird colony Special Protected Areas (SPA)
- 94 Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI)
- 8 fisheries management areas
33 Nature Conservation MPA proposals have now also been developed and a further 4 MPA search locations remain to be fully assessed. Were every one of these proposals taken forward for designation, the new MPAs would represent 12% of the area of Scotland’s seas.
2012 was the landmark year that OSPAR had targeted for completion of the MPA network in the north-east Atlantic. Six sites, including East Mingulay were submitted to OSPAR in December. New Marine candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSACs) collectively cover an area larger than the entire Highlands region and contribute to the Marine Protected Areas network, an EU requirement under the Habitats Directive.
The new cSACs are:
- Hatton Bank in the North East Atlantic: a volcanic bank that stretches almost 500 km and up to 1,000 m in depth and is home to a wide variety of soft and hard corals
- Anton Dohrn Seamount, 200 km West of Scotland: a former volcano with steep cliffs descending 2,400m, which includes cold-water coral reefs and is a hotbed for marine biodiversity
- East Rockall Bank, 320 km west of Scotland: a stony reef with steep canyons descending more than 1,000 metres, which supports rare sea slug, sponges and lace corals
- Pobie Bank Reef, 20 km east of Shetland: a stony and bedrock reef that supports many species, including cup corals and a unique sponge only found on the reef
- Solan Bank Reef, 50 km north of Cape Wrath: an ecosystem supporting many corals, sponges and brittlestars
A Sustainability Appraisal, comprising a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and a socio-economic assessment, is being undertaken and the report, will accompany the public consultation in Summer 2013. The SEA is considering (amongst other issues) the use of site alternatives, management measures, and the effects of mitigation such as displacement. The socio-economic assessment, which is informed by an external contract, will identify what activities currently take place in potential MPAs, explore how those activities may be affected by such conservation proposals, and estimate the potential economic and social consequences arising from any potential interactions. The Sustainability Appraisal will also aim to provide a qualitative assessment of the potential benefits, both environmental and socio-economic, of the proposed Nature Conservation MPA network.
A project advisory group, comprising stakeholder representatives including SSACN, is being convened for this work which will allow members to provide insight, evidence and advice to the consultants and analysts gathering the evidence to inform the SEA and the socio-economic assessment. Invitations to join the project advisory group will be issued shortly.