February 21, 2011 Featured Article Read More →

MPA selection guidelines

The Scottish Government has just published guidelines for the selection of Marine Protected Areas.


The Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act include new powers and duties to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect features of importance to Scotland.

The Marine (Scotland) Act includes provisions to designate MPAs for the following purposes inside 12 nautical miles:

  • Nature Conservation MPAs for biodiversity and geodiversity features
  • Demonstration & Research MPAs
  • Historic MPAs

The UK Marine and Coastal Access Act includes equivalent provisions for Scottish Ministers to designate MPAs for biodiversity and geodiversity features in offshore waters adjacent to Scotland.

Scope and timeframe of the Guidance

The guidelines apply to the marine area for which Scottish Ministers have devolved responsibility. For Nature Conservation MPAs and MPA network development – Scottish territorial waters (out to 12 nm) and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland; for Demonstration & Research MPAs apply inside 12 nm.

Milestones and key deliverables in the Scottish Government’s commitment to clean, healthy and biologically diverse marine and coastal environment include:

  • Deliver a MPA network to meet national and international commitments by 2012
  • Report on progress of a MPA network by 2013 and deliver a well managed network of sites by 2016 (Marine Strategy Framework Directive)
  • Define Good Environmental Status by 2012 and deliver by 2020 (Marine Strategy Framework Directive)

The guidelines are aimed primarily at the period to 2012 i.e. the first key milestone in delivery of a MPA network. However, they also include provision for longer term obligations and as knowledge of the marine environment improves, consideration of ecological coherence will evolve and it is anticipated that network design may be adapted to reflect this.

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