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31 March 2010

Scottish Marine Act

The Act that will lead to significant changes in the waters around Scotland received Royal Assent earlier this month.

Amongst the Act’s goals is an increase in marine protection in Scottish waters, similar to the Marine Conservation Zones being identified in English and Welsh waters.

According to a press release from the Scottish government:

The Marine (Scotland) Act provides a framework which will help balance competing demands on Scotland's seas.

It introduces a duty to protect and enhance the marine environment and includes measures to help boost economic investment and growth in areas such as marine renewables.

The main measures include:

·         A National Marine Plan to give greater clarity to decision making in the marine environment and encourage investment

·         A simpler licensing system to cut bureaucracy and introduce efficiencies to encourage economic investment and growth

·         New powers to select and manage Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to enhance marine biodiversity and preserve historic assets

·         Much improved protection for seals, including a comprehensive licence system and tougher penalties for those who harm seals

·         The powers in the Act complement the provisions of the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which created new responsibilities for Scottish Ministers on marine planning and conservation in offshore waters outside 12 nautical miles (nm)

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said this marks a major turning point in safeguarding the future of Scotland seas and laying the foundations for a more simplified marine planning and licensing system.

He said:

"Scotland's seas are home to some of the world's most spectacular wildlife and habitats, and have the potential to power our nation through wind and wave and create tens of thousands of new jobs. We have reached a turning point and must modernise in order to meet increasing and competing demands on our seas.

"Marine Protected Areas will help us protect important marine habitats and species and we will work closely with others to ensure that the site selection process is underpinned by sound scientific advice. These new powers will also allow us to be more joined up with our crucial fisheries industry.

"The development of renewable energy is vital in our fight against climate change, and our seas will become increasingly important in meeting this challenge. This new framework will ensure that our seas continue to oil our economy and put food on our tables.

"Improved planning and licensing will support the development of renewable marine energy. We owe it to future generations to ensure our seas are managed and harvested sustainably. Economic growth is vital, but it should be balanced with protection for our stunning marine environment."

New conservation powers will enable Scottish Ministers to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to help support the conservation of important marine life, historic MPAs to protect historically important sites such as wrecks or national monuments, and demonstration and research MPAs, to demonstrate new methods of managing Scotland's unique marine environment.