The Scottish Government has submitted proposals to the EU that include plans for Europe’s largest marine area of nature conservation in waters west of Scotland.
The designation of Hatton Bank as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), located approximately 500 km west of Lewis, would cover an area of more than 15,000 square kilometres.
Jonathan Hughes, IUCN Regional Councillor for West Europe and Director of Conservation at Scottish Wildlife Trust, commented:
"The announcement by the Scottish Government and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee of five candidate Special Areas of Conservation in the offshore zone around Scotland is welcome news for what remain some of the most heavily exploited seas in the world.”
“Hatton Bank, a volcanic structure that stretches almost 500 km and up to 1,000 m in depth, will become the largest marine protected area in the European Union, helping safeguard a variety of soft and hard corals including Lophelia pertusa biogenic reefs.”
“Scotland will in the next two years designate many more nationally important marine protected areas under the 2010 Marine (Scotland) Act, a long overdue piece of legislation which many IUCN Members campaigned for and helped shape.”
“Ultimately the goal in Scotland is to achieve international targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity of having 10% of Scotland's seas protected. Securing such protection will not only benefit biodiversity, it should also increase productivity and help secure a future for those communities which depend on healthy oceans for their livelihoods. This is a prime example of a nature-based solution to the problem of declining marine productivity".
Hatton Bank would form part of a package of five new SACs in offshore waters to the west and north of Scotland. The new sites would contribute to the Marine Protected Areas network – an EU requirement under the Habitats Directive.
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Read more on the United Kingdom's biodiversity and action to conserve it in this month's Country Focus.