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Early Christmas present for Scotland’s iconic minke whales, basking sharks and Risso’s dolphins

Press Release Date: December 3, 2020



Emily Fairless | email: efairless@oceana.org

Oceana welcomes the designation of four new Scottish Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (NCMPAs) as an important contribution to the ecological coherence of the Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network. The four sites – Southern Trench, North-east Lewis, Sea of the Hebrides and Shiant East Bank – will grant protection to a rich array of marine life, including basking sharks, minke whales, Risso’s dolphins, sponge communities and sea fans. Oceana data collected in the Southern Trench site demonstrated its high ecological value and also revealed that the area should be further extended.

Melissa Moore, head of policy-UK, Oceana said These large sites are very welcome to  protect some of Scotland’s iconic marine wildlife and habitats. But protection will only happen once effective management measures are put in place.  Oceana’s recent analyses of Scotland’s offshore MPAs have revealed that damaging bottom-towed fishing occurred in all except two sites in 2019.  We call on Government to introduce a ban on bottom-towed gear in all MPAs as well as in the coastal zone to 3 nautical miles to protect these important ecosystems.

Oceana has been calling for protection of the Southern Trench since 2017, based on the findings from our at-sea research1, backed by other complementary surveys2. Resulting data were provided to the Scottish authorities to justify granting protected status to more priority marine features within the NCMPA (such as kelp beds and sandeels) and to others outside it (like Sabellaria reefs). On this basis, our data justifies extending the southern boundary of the NCMPA further south.

Moore added We urge the Scottish Government to further consider Oceana’s expedition data in support of extending the Southern Trench site southwards, to encompass other valuable features in the vicinity (like fragile reefs formed by Sabellaria worms).


With over 60% of UK seas under its jurisdiction, Scotland is a key contributor to the development of ecologically coherent networks of MPAs in the UK and in the North-East Atlantic. Indeed, the designation of these four sites is important progress towards achieving the UK’s policy commitments to strengthen the OSPAR Convention network of MPAs for the North-East Atlantic, reaching Good Environmental Status (as set out by the Marine Strategy Framework Regulations) and maintaining and enhancing biodiversity – a focus of the Habitats Regulations.

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Notes to editors

  1. Oceana report Protecting the North Sea: Aberdeenshire – June 2020: https://europe.oceana.org/en/publications/reports/protecting-north-sea-aberdeenshire
  2. Scottish National Heritage surveys in the Southern Trench in 2017: https://data.gov.uk/dataset/b7175332-fb57-4d62-9f91-c8f79b1eb2aa/2017-scottish-natural-heritage-snh-southern-trench-benthic-camera-survey

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