The Scottish Government has national and international commitments to establish a network of nature conservation MPAs in its seas.The results of a public consultation on a proposed network of Marine Protected Areas [MPAs] along with scientific advice and recommendations has been published.
Of the 14,703 respondents, only 12 answered ‘No’ when asked if they were in favour of a Scottish network of Nature Conservation MPAs; A pity the public were not allowed to consider Demonstration & Research MPAs instead of them being discarded by the government.
Also published was scientific advice to Ministers from Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH] and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee [JNCC]. SNH is recommending 17 MPAs in territorial waters within 12nm [nautical miles] of the coast]; and JNCC recommends a further 16 MPAs in offshore waters.
Speaking yesterday, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: ‘Today we published the independent analysis of the consultation responses we received to Planning Scotland’s Seas. I am delighted we received so many responses which shows how passionate people in Scotland are about our beautiful marine environment.
”This government has worked hard to introduce marine planning and the upcoming National Marine Plan will help achieve the balance needed for sustainable growth. We will also be able to confirm the locations of the Marine Protected Areas later this year. I would like to thank SNH and JNCC for the progress made so far.’
The majority of responses to the MPA part of the consultation were generated by campaigns related to seabirds, whales and dolphins, or community campaigns in support of proposals, such as the South Arran proposed MPA and progression of an MPA between Skye and Mull.
Ron Macdonald, SNH director of policy and advice, said: ‘With three metres of coastline for every person in Scotland our seas are an environmental, economic and recreational resource that makes an enormous contribution to our quality of life. The huge response to the consultation on MPAs covered a range of views on the challenges of balancing environmental interests with other uses of the sea. This tells us that people share an appreciation of how special Scotland’s seas are. Not only that, it says that they want to conserve what makes them special for the benefit of current and future generations.’
However the big question is the same as it always is – will the Scottish Government do more to provide recreational users with an equal voice in how the marine environment is managed or will it continue to give preference to those who benefit directly by commercially exploiting it?
Note: A map showing the distribution of the thirty-three possible MPAs that were consulted upon in the summer 2013 is available and the updated boundaries of the possible MPAs are available for download via the SNH Natural Spaces web.