As with any Assessment, Scotland's Marine Assessment 2020 (SMA2020) is the culmination of many hours of work by many scientists, experts and managers from around Scotland, in coordination with representatives of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, NatureScot, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland.

A great thank you! goes to authors, editors and chairs of the groups and scientists and assistants, and all those involved in data collection.

To the project team – Scotland's Seas Data and Assessment Steering Group - please accept my appreciation for the excellent work you have done!

SMA2020 makes use of established indicators, new methods and breaks new ground in areas of marine science. In some cases, improvements are noticed which signal that the management of human pressures is having a positive effect. In other cases, pressures are still affecting the marine environment negatively and there is a clear need for action.

The process to produce this assessment has delivered a common knowledge base in Scotland. It has consolidated the joint working between the various agencies and has brought many experts around the table. At the centre of this project has been cooperation and coordination. This has resulted in a product that will provide a strong basis on which to review Scotland's National Marine Plan.

It is my hope that the Headlines and next steps will be used as a catalyst to develop the National Marine Plan and so further improve the management of the human activities that have an impact on the seas around Scotland. The Headlines and next steps can also be used to heighten awareness of the importance of the sea to Scotland. This document highlights where action is required to ensure Scotland’s seas contribute to a sustainable future for life below water and on land.

Colin Moffat - Chair of SSDAG

December 2020


Colin Moffat, John Baxter, Barbara Berx, Kirsty Bosley, Philip Boulcott, Martyn Cox, Lyndsay Cruickshank, Katie Gillham, Venetia Haynes, Ashley Roberts, David Vaughan, & Lynda Webster (Eds.). (2020). Scotland's Marine Assessment 2020. Scottish Government.

A large number of people have contributed to making Scotland's Marine Assessment 2020 a success.

Editorial Team

John Baxter, Barbara Berx, Kirsty Bosley (up to December 2019), Philip Boulcott, Adam Cox (from March 2020), Martyn Cox, Lyndsay Cruickshank, Katie Gillham, Venetia Haynes (from December 2019), Colin Moffat, Ashley Roberts, David Vaughan and Lynda Webster.

Design Team

Catarina Aires, John Baxter, Michelle Bloor, Adam Cox, Martyn Cox, Lyndsay Cruickshank, Liam Mason, Helen McGregor, Colin Moffat, Keith Mutch, Jens Rasmussen, Dave Tulett, Eleanor Young.

Scotland's Seas Data and Assessment Steering Group

Chair: David Pratt (up to November 2018); Colin Moffat (from November 2018).

Members: Catarina Aires, John Baxter, Barbara Berx (from March 2019), Kirsty Bosley (up to December 2019), Bruce Buchanan (from March 2020), Philip Boulcott (from November 2018),  Adam Cox (from March 2020), Martyn Cox, Lyndsay Cruickshank (from July 2019), Katie Gillham, Matt Gubbins (up to 2018), Venetia Haynes (from December 2019), Jenny Hindson (up to March 2019), Ashley Roberts, Bill Turrell (up to 2018), David Vaughan and Lynda Webster.

Assisting with assessment and portal proof reading

Contributors: John Baxter, Jack Bloodworth, Caroline Carter, Phil Copland, Ross Culloch, Ian Davies, Jim Drewery, Tom Evans, Carey Fraser, Alejandro Gallego, Katie Gillham, Karen Hall, Rich Howells, Matt Gubbins, Ian Mitchell, Colin Moffat, Ashley Roberts, David Vaughan, Rob Watret.


Headlines and next steps​

Lead: Colin Moffat

Contributors: John Baxter, Martyn Cox, Katie Gillham, Adam Cox, Bruce Buchanan.


Lead: Colin Moffat

Contributors: Martyn Cox, Liam Mason.

Managing the human activities that have an impact on Scotland's seas

Lead: Martyn Cox

Contributors: Esther Black, Jack Bloodworth, Janelle Braithwaite, Bruce Buchanan, Grant Campbell, Peter Chaniotis, Ross Culloch, Emma Defew, Helen Downie, Ewan Edwards, Rhona Fairgrieve, Allan Gibb, Katie Gillham, Mark James, Catriona Jeorrett, Andronikos Kafas, David Mallon, Robin MacLean, Michael McLeod, Ian Packwood, David Paterson, David Pratt, Ashley Roberts, Philip Robertson, Anne Saunders, David Vaughan, Jim Watson.

Climate Change

Lead: Barbara Berx

Contributors: Stewart Angus, John Baxter, Eileen Bresnan, Michael T Burrows, Ewan Edwards, Tom Evans, Nick Everett, Karen Hall, Lea-Anne Henry, Richard Howells, Lisa Kamphausen, Georgios Kazanidis, Jack Lucas, Margarita Machairopoulou, Colin Moffat, Lucy Quinn, Matthew Palmer, Alistair Rennie, Bill Turrell, Johanne Vad, Peter Wright.  

Physical Characteristics and Ocean Acidification

Lead: Barbara Berx

Assessment / case study Contributors
Wave climate Rory O'Hara Murray, Lucy Bricheno.
Stratification / potential energy anomaly Barbara Berx, Jenny Hindson.
Circulation Barbara Berx, Jenny Hindson.
Salinity Barbara Berx, Jenny Hindson.
Temperature Barbara Berx, Jenny Hindson.
Ocean acidification Pamela Walsham
Suspended particulate inorganic matter (turbidity) Helen Smith, Barbara Berx, Jenny Hindson.
Sea level and tides Barbara Berx, Jenny Hindson.
Scotland’s tidal stream resource Rory O'Hara Murray
Dissolved oxygen, application of novel technologies Charlotte Williams, Alejandro Gallego.
Coccolithophores at Stonehaven Pamela Walsham
Cold-water corals Mingulay, carbonate chemistry diurnal variability Pamela Walsham
Shell integrity of pelagic gastropods at Stonehaven Pamela Walsham

Natural capital, ecosystem services and the Blue Economy

Lead: Chris Leakey

Contributors: Katie Gillham, Sam Black, Marcel Jaspers, Colin Moffat, Owen McGrath.

Pressures from activities

Workshop group leads: Murray Roberts, Teresa Fernandes, Mike Bell, Mark Inall and Philip Boulcott.

Contributors: John Baxter, Lynda Blackadder, Mike Bland, Kate Brookes, Peter Chaniotis, Martyn Cox, David Donnan, Katie Gillham, Suz Henderson, Chris Leakey, George Lees, Liam Mason, Colin Moffat, Coby Needle, Lesley Phillips, David Turnbull.

Workshop attendees: Hannah Anderson, Yolanda Arjona, David Bailey, John Baxter, Steven Benjamins, Barbara Berx, Mike Bland, Jack Bloodworth, Kirsty Bosley, Lois Calder, Grant Campbell, Robin Cook, Martyn Cox, Sarah Cunningham, David Donnan, Anton Edwards, Ewan Edwards, Michael Elliott, Clive Fox, Katie Gillham, Matthew Gubbins, Ailsa Hall, Mark Hartl, Suz Henderson, Georgios Kazanidis, Janet Khan, Stephen Malcolm, Colin Moffat, Bernadette Moloughney, Joanne Porter, Laura Robson, Sally Rouse, Marie Russell, Bill Sanderson, Rachel Shucksmith, Michelle Stanley, Tim Stojanovic, Bill Turrell, Johanne Vad, Lynda Webster, Pamela Walsham.

Regional assessments

Lead: Colin Moffat

Contributors: John Baxter, Barbara Berx, Adam Cox, Martyn Cox, Katie Gillham, Venetia Haynes, Suz Henderson, George Lees, Chris Eastham, James McCrum, Berit Rabe, Rona Sinclair, David Vaughan, Lynda Webster.


Clean and safe

Lead: Lynda Webster

Members of Scottish Clean and Safe Seas Coordination Group: Hannah Anderson, Jack Bloodworth, Rob Fryer, Jean-Pierre Lacaze, Kasia Kazimierczak, Ashley Roberts, Marie Russell, Pamela Walsham, Lynda Webster, Kelly White.

Assessment / case study Contributors
Nutrient inputs in water Ashley Roberts, Jack Bloodworth.
Winter nutrient concentrations Pamela Walsham, Rob Fryer, Malcolm Hall.
Chlorophyll concentration Malcolm Baptie
Dissolved oxygen Ashley Roberts, Jack Bloodworth.
Inputs of mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) in water Ashley Roberts, Jack Bloodworth.
Concentration of contaminants in the water column Ashley Roberts, Jack Bloodworth.
Concentration of mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) in biota and sediment Lynda Webster, Rob Fryer.
Concentration of PCBs in biota and sediment Lynda Webster, Rob Fryer.
Concentration of PAHs in biota and sediment Lynda Webster, Rob Fryer.
Concentration of PBDEs in biota and sediment Lynda Webster, Rob Fryer.
Imposex in dogwhelks Hannah Anderson, Rob Fryer.
EROD - an indicator of exposure of fish to some organic contaminants Hannah Anderson, Rob Fryer.
External fish disease Hannah Anderson
Radionuclides Mark Toner
Oil and chemical discharges and releases Colin Moffat
Microplastics in surface water Marie Russell
Beach litter Bill Turrell
Sea-floor litter Malcolm Hall, Kelly McIntosh.
Impulsive noise Ewan Edwards, Kate Brookes.
Continuous noise Ewan Edwards, Kate Brookes.
Bathing water microbiology Ruth Stidson, Calum McPhail.
Shellfish water microbiology Kelly White
Algal toxins Sarah Swan
Microplastics in Scottish intertidal sediments – a first baseline (2014-2018) Mark G.J. Hartl
The RealRiskNano project Tony Gutierrez, Stephen Summers.
PCBs in grey seals Kimberley Bennett
PBDEs in grey seals Kimberley Bennett
Imposex in Sullom Voe Hannah Anderson, Jon Moore, Rebecca Kinnear.
Dissolved oxygen, application of novel technologies Charlotte Williams, Barbara Berx, Alejandro Gallego.
Opportunistic macroalgal blooms (Ythan estuary) Rosie Foster
Maritime casualties investigated by Marine Accident Investigation Branch Martyn Cox

Healthy and biologically diverse

Lead: John Baxter

Members of Habitat and Species Assessment Group: Steven Benjamins, Philip Boulcott, Eileen Bresnan, Andrew Brierley, Peter Chaniotis, Martyn Cox, Jane Hawkridge, Cristina Herbon, Ben James, Janet Khan, Chris Leakey, Margarita Machairopoulou, Megan Parry, David Stirling.

Contributors: James Dargie, Katie Gillham.

Assessment / case study Contributors
Cetaceans Ailsa Hall, Phil Hammond, Clint Blight, Claire Lacey, Monica Arso Civil.
Seals Ailsa Hall, Chris Morris, Debbie Russell, Callan Duck, Clint Blight.
Commercial fish Coby Needle, Simon Greenstreet.
Wider fish community Dafne Eerkes-Medrano, Philip Boulcott.
Commercial shellfish Helen Dobby
Deep-sea fish David Stirling, Philip Boulcott, Peter Chaniotis.
Inshore fish (estuaries and reduced salinity sea lochs) Janet Khan, Myles O'Reilly, Anne Mclay.
Salmon and sea trout Stuart Middlemas
Seabirds Glen Tyler, Simon Foster, Emma Philip.
Abundance of wintering waterbirds Glen Tyler, Simon Foster, Emma Philip.
Non-native species Janet Khan, Elizabeth Cottier-Cook.
Plankton Eileen Bresnan, Margarita Machairopoulou.
Marine Protected Areas John Mouat, Lily Burke.
Predicted extent of physical disturbance to seafloor Megan Parry, Ben James, Philip Boulcott.
Biogenic habitats Colin Moore, Ben James.
Intertidal seagrass Rosie Foster, Mark Huxham.
Intertidal rock Michael T Burrows
Blue carbon in Scottish maerl beds Kelly James
Blue carbon in Scottish marine sedimentary environments Bill Austin
Blue carbon, the contribution from seaweed detritus Alasdair R O'Dell, Michael T Burrows.
Deep sea vulnerable marine ecosystems Peter Chaniotis, Sebastian Hennige.
Native Oysters Cass Bromley, David Donnan.
Basking sharks in Scottish waters Suz Henderson
Flapper skate – Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA Jane Dodd, James Thorburn.
Protecting the Loch Carron flame shell beds Ben James, Lisa Kamphausen, Flora Kent.
Persistent damage to the Loch Creran serpulid reefs Ben James, Lisa Kamphausen, Flora Kent.
Biogenic habitat enhancement Colin Moore, Ben James, Lisa Kamphausen, Flora Kent.
Socio-economic impacts of marine protected areas

Kathleen Allen, Venetia Haynes.

Marine non-native species monitoring in the Orkney Islands Jenni Kakkonen
Carpet sea squirt Bernadette Moloughney, Finlay Bennet, Iveta Matejusova.
Sandeels in Scottish waters Peter Wright
Seabed habitats in territorial waters - the evolving knowledge-base Ben James, Katie Gillham. 
Marine food webs Katie Gillham, Phil Boulcott, John Baxter.
Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme Jayne Burns, Andrew Brownlow, Mariel T.I. ten Doeschate.
Priority Marine Features Katie Gillham, Ben James.


Lead: Kirsty Bosley (up to December 2019); Venetia Haynes (from December 2019)

Contributors: Martyn Cox, James McCrum, Liam Mason.

Assessment / case study Contributors
Overview of the marine economy Kirsty Bosley, Venetia Haynes, James McCrum.
Aquaculture Emily McLean, Jill Barber, Robin MacLean, Alistair Mitchell, Jane Rougvie, John Bewley, Panos Pliatsikas, Lorna Munro, Adam Hughes, Charles Allan, Anna Donald, Bill Ellis.
Salmon and sea trout fishing Stuart Middlemas, Antje Branding, Hilary Anderson.
Fishing Stuart Bell, Jane MacPherson, Diane Buchanan, Cameron Melvin, Harriet Wilson.
Fish processing Steven Scott, John Davidson, Chahat Sekhon, Peter Greene, Duncan Macgregor.
Seaweed harvesting and cultivation Paul Haddon, Adam Cox, Alex Adrian, Tracey Begg, Ben James, Mike Bland, Fiona Livingston, Damon Hewlett.
Renewable energy Sophie Humphries, Wendy Geary, Drew Milne, Gordon Patterson, Paul Matthews, Janelle Braithwaite, Giulia Agnisola.
Oil and gas sector and infrastructure Linsey Wilson, Laura Graham, Mila Koskinen, William Parker, Rebecca Middlemiss, Douglas Krestoff.
Water abstraction Martyn Cox, Liam Mason, Bob Boyce, Ashely Roberts, David Lister, Jon Rathjen.
Carbon capture utilisation and storage Kate Chalmers-Deacon, Lewis Hurley.
Aggregates Martyn Cox, Mike Bland, Malcolm Rose.
Maritime transport (freight, ports and shipping) Dario dalla Costa, Val Ferguson, Nick Gosling, Andrew Paterson, Peter Sumner, Andrew Knight, Jeanine Bezuijen.
Maritime transport (passengers, ferries and cruise ships) Andrew Paterson, Peter Sumner, Bob Davie, Richard Hadfield, Nick Gosling.
Waste disposal – dredge material Malcolm Rose, Liam Mason, Fiona Munro.
Military activity Vivienne McColl, Hamish Tetlow, Carolyn Kemp, Jack Huntley, Chris Gross, Elisabeth Stark, Allyson Forrester.
Coastal erosion and flood risk management Debi Garft, Alistair Rennie, Cathy Tilbrook.
Subsea cables Andrew Manson, John Wrottesley, Marion Ballantyne, Harry Emambocus, Oliver Loveless, Tony Fisk, Liam Mason.
Waste water treatment and industrial outfalls Martyn Cox, Liam Mason, Bob Boyce, Ashely Roberts, David Lister, Jon Rathjen.
Marine tourism Judith Young, Magdalena Demczak, Lily Burke, Richard Walsh, Sarah Payne, Marina Martinolli, Hugh Sheridan.
Historic environment and cultural heritage Philip Robertson, Richard Heawood.
Ship and boat building and maintenance Jamie McLeod, Christopher McLean, Patrick Carnie, David Palmer.
West Coast Waters & North Coast 500: two examples of marine and coastal tourism initiatives Judith Young, Magdalena Demczak.
Nova Innovation – Shetland Tidal Array Sophie Humphries, Drew Milne, Kate Smith, Gavin McPherson.
Scotland's coastal town typology Paula Duffy, Tim Stojanovic.