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Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
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CMBB contribute towards the designation of 30 new Marine Protected Areas in Scotland

R Shucksmith 21

Researchers from the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology are celebrating this month after the announcement that Scottish Ministers have designated 30 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Scotland.

A huge amount of work went into the selection and designation of sites over the past 5 years, and members of the CMBB made a significant contribution to the evidence base used in the selection process. The new Nature Conservation MPAs fulfil duties in both the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Advice provided by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) supported the designation of 13 offshore sites. Scottish Natural Heritage provided advice to the Scottish Government on the 17 inshore sites

Since 2010, members of the Heriot-Watt Scientific Dive Team have been involved in seabed surveys in Orkney, Shetland, Loch Creran, Loch Fyne, Loch Sween, Loch Linnhe, Loch Alsh and the Ullapool area. This work, in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage has provided information on the distribution and condition of Priority Marine Features (PMFs) around Scotland.

The information was reviewed by a group of independent scientists in June 2014 and ultimately resulted in the designation of the 8 of the inshore sites including, Fetlar to Haroldswick, Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh, Noss Head, Wester Ross and Wyre and Rousay Sounds MPAs. Ecologically important features, such as flame shells beds (Limaria hians), horse mussel reefs (Modiolus modiolus) and maerl beds will be protected by management measures that will be developed in the next two years. Video footage of sites and features can been seen here

Research conducted by the coral ecosystems research group at CMBB has supported the designation of a number of offshore MPAs. For example, the Hebrides Terrace Seamount was surveyed by the group using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to show the environmental variability and species richness across the seamount. The site is now designated as part of the Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA and the features protected include cold water coral reefs, deep sea sponges and orange roughy. The seamount is thought to be a significant part of the MPA network due to the unusual underwater currents and diverse seamount communities.

 MPA-map