Skip to main content

13 June, 2014

Marine research reports show the science behind Scotland’s possible MPA network

A range of reports on work carried out to identify Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scotland’s seas have been published today (Friday 13th) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The reports are the latest batch in an extensive programme of marine research led by SNH and Marine Scotland to help Scottish Ministers establish a network of MPAs. Nine marine research reports have been published today.

A report looks at statistical methods used to help identify areas that might be considered as future MPAs for some species of whale, dolphin and for basking sharks. It explains how these techniques showed which areas are used by these mobile creatures regularly and in large numbers. Another presents new information about the creatures living in or on the seabed in possible MPAs at South Arran and Loch Goil.

Another report looks at potential conservation management options which could help support the recovery of features at the Upper Loch Fyne & Loch Goil possible MPA and the Wester Ross possible MPA. Features which could benefit from management measures at these proposed sites include flame shell beds and maerl beds.

A fourth report, funded by Marine Scotland, looks at the size and condition of a horse mussel bed in Scapa Flow, Orkney and its relationship with the nearby wreck of the SMS Karlsruhe. Horse mussels are listed as a Priority Marine Feature in Scottish waters and examples of this feature could be protected by the possible MPA network. The bed around North Cava was found to be in good condition and much larger than previously thought.

SNH has recommended 17 possible MPAs to Scottish Ministers. Together withpossible MPAs in offshore waters recommended by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, these could help complete Scotland’s MPA network. Further work is underway on another four areas which may also be recommended as MPAs.

Ben James of SNH said:

“Scotland’s seas are home to a fantastic range of wildlife which attracts wildlife watchers from around the world. They are also a key part of our culture and history and they are vital for our economy, generating around £2.2 billion a year in Scotland.

“We’ve published these reports today as part of our ongoing commitment to making all the evidence we use available to others. The work described in these reports has contributed to our work on MPAs, and will help Scottish Ministers create an ecologically coherent network that will protect our marine wildlife for the benefit of Scotland’s people.”

Ministers are expected to make an announcement on the designation of Nature Conservation MPAs later this summer.

Copies of all the SNH commissioned reports published today (numbers 517, 530, 573, 594, 619, 745, 754, 760 and 764) are available on the SNH website at


Contact information

Dominic Shann
Job Title
Media Relations Officer
01463 725157

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

’S e NatureScot buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Bidh sinn a’ neartachadh àrainneachd na h-Alba agus a’ brosnachadh dhaoine gu barrachd suim a chur ann an nàdar. Tha e mar phrìomhachas againn gum bi nàdar na h-Alba beairteach agus gun dèilig sinn gu h-èifeachdach le èiginn na gnàth-shìde. Tha an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh aig no air Twitter aig