The Marine (Scotland) Act has established a new power for Marine Protected Areas in the seas around Scotland to recognise features of national importance and meet international commitments for developing a network of MPAs. This complements the MPA power introduced through the Marine and Coastal Access Act for offshore waters around Scotland.
MPAs are an important mechanism for protecting Scotland’s seas. They are one way of helping to achieve the Government’s vision of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’. Scotland has international commitments to establish an ecologically coherent network of MPAs under OSPAR and the World Summit on Sustainable Development . Together with existing Natura sites, the new MPA power will help Scotland to meet these commitments. A network of well-managed MPAs will, alongside other management measures, underpin the future use of the seas around Scotland.
The Scottish Marine Protected Areas Project
A series of MPAs were identified in Scottish waters and were subject to public consultation in 2013. On the 24 July 2014, Scottish Ministers designated a suite of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (NCMPA) using powers granted under the Scotland Marine Act and Marine and Coastal Access Act. These NCMPAs will cover over 10% of Scotland’s seas and provide protection for a wide range of important marine habitats and wildlife, geology and geomorphology.
The MPA site closest to the Solway is the Clyde Sea Sill which stretches from the Mull of Kintyre to Corsewall Point on the Rhins of Galloway. Below the surface in this region, the water shallows dramatically where the North Channel (between Scotland and Northern Ireland) becomes the Firth of Clyde at a distinctive sill on the sea bed. The sill causes the much cooler, saline waters of the North Channel to mix with the warmer, less saline waters of the Clyde, leading to the creation of a front.
A fairly distinct gradient in habitat type exists along the possible MPA, with coarse and mixed substrates in tide-swept conditions off Kintyre, rippled fine-medium sands in the centre of the sill, and sandy-mud habitats on the Galloway side. The sands and gravels on the sea floor are moved around, creating sandbank ridges or extensive sand ribbon and sand wave fields.
There are a range of animals adapted to thrive here taking advantage of the productive waters. Clam shells and polychaete worms live beneath the sediment while fish, starfish, brittlestars, sea mice and hermit crabs roam the surface looking for food. In the north of the possible MPA the cliffs and rocky shores on Sanda, Sheep Island and Glunimore Island (encompassed by an existing Site of Special Scientific Interest for breeding seabirds), are home to over 400 breeding black guillemots.
Catalogue of Priority Marine Features
Also as part of the Marine Protected Areas Project SNH has produced a descriptive catalogue of 81 Priority Marine Features (PMFs) that have been identified in the seas around Scotland. The catalogue serves as a reference for ongoing nature conservation action. Descriptions for each PMF (including component habitats and species where appropriate) comprise an image, distribution map and short text outlining the characteristics, distribution and status of the species or habitat. Information on the distribution of the PMFs has also been collated within a Geographic Information System (GIS), which will be updated as new information emerges, and is being made available to view online. The report can be viewed here
For more information on MPAs:-
Scottish Natural Heritage