In recent years it has become ever more apparent the critical role that the ocean plays in the maintenance of the health of the planet and the challenges that it is facing with the increasing exploitation and pressures that are being imposed on its finite resources.
The seas around Scotland are subject to a wide range of pressures from activities. It is essential that these are managed to ensure the health of the habitats and species and the range of natural capital and ecosystem services they provide.
Conservation is delivered through a range of mechanisms related to different levels of protection and the sustainable exploitation of the different resources. Some species, especially some of the more iconic ones such as birds and cetaceans receive protection at a variety of scales and through a range of mechanisms, whilst others appear to be more-or-less ignored despite their importance in the functioning of the marine ecosystem. One of the main tools in delivering conservation are Marine Protected Areas which provide the means to impose management measures on specific activities to protect specific features within the MPA. In so doing they also provide a level of protection for all the other species within the given community. Whilst the MPA network is an important element in the conservation effort it is essential that the ethos of protection and sustainable exploitation is adopted across the whole of Scotland’s seas especially as many of the species do not observe the artificial boundaries imposed by MPAs or any other area-based management measures. To help in focusing this work a list of 81 Priority Marine Features has been adopted.