Scottish Government Agree to Support Four Marine Protected Areas in Scotland for Whales, Dolphins and Sharks

 A minke whale spotted by Silurian crew

A minke whale spotted by Silurian crew

This week HWDT were delighted to hear that the Scottish Government will be providing the funding needed to take four proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scottish waters to public consultation. This has followed HWDT working closely with conservation partners through Scottish Environment LINK to call for the Government to progress these sites.

 The proposed sites will protect the breeding and feeding grounds of some of Scotland’s most charismatic marine species including minke whales, Risso’s dolphins and basking sharks and are central in a move towards a national network of MPAs that will help protect our amazing seas.

 Locations of proposed sites 1.) Sea of the Hebrides protected features include minke whales and basking sharks, 2.) North East Lewis MPA protected features include Risso’s dolphins and sandeels, 3.) Shiant East Bank, 4.) Southern Trench protected features include minke whales.

Locations of proposed sites 1.) Sea of the Hebrides protected features include minke whales and basking sharks, 2.) North East Lewis MPA protected features include Risso’s dolphins and sandeels, 3.) Shiant East Bank, 4.) Southern Trench protected features include minke whales.

HWDT’s research vessel, Silurian, has had a leading role in collecting the scientific evidence needed for change in Scottish waters. HWDT was a key data provider for Sea of the Hebrides site which will include the protection of minke whale and basking sharks, that are seen frequently by volunteers and crew on board Silurian and our photo-identification research has shown some minke whales have returned to this site year upon year for over a decade! This pioneering Cetacean Research Programme, now in its 15th  year, holds the largest database of its kind for UK waters.

 A close encounter with a basking shark

A close encounter with a basking shark

Our Science and Policy Officer, Dr Lauren Hartny-Mills, welcomes the news:

We are absolutely thrilled to hear that the Scottish Government plans to progress these important MPAs which will help protect Scotland’s iconic mobile species. Our research on cetaceans and basking sharks on the west coast of Scotland has helped provide the scientific evidence needed to support these sites. These MPAs will protect important feeding and breeding grounds for charismatic species such as minke whales in the Sea of Hebrides, where some individuals have been returning every year for over a decade! With our marine environments under increasing pressure from human activity and the effects of climate change, we need to act now to provide the protection they need.

HWDT have been researching minke whales and basking sharks, alongside other species, for over two decades, leading the way for the conservation of whale, dolphins and porpoises in the Hebrides ever since. Using what we have learnt from our dedicated volunteers and crew, we work directly with communities to encourage stewardship of our rich seas, alongside providing evidence to the Scottish Government.

If you would like to be involved in protecting our seas, you can join us on board Silurian this summer and work alongside the HWDT crew as marine mammal field biologists to collect the evidence we need for change. We only have a limited amount of berths left, so booking now is crucial not only to secure your berth, but for the future of our seas.