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- Environment and climate change
Europe’s largest special area of conservation announced.
Harbour porpoise will become the latest species to receive increased protection in Scotland under a new conservation area.
Scotland's first Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for harbour porpoise has been created in the Inner Hebrides and Minches SAC on the West of Scotland and is now Europe's largest for this species.
The area will help maintain the favourable conservation status of harbour porpoise by providing protection to them and the habitats that support them in Scottish waters.
It will fulfil the Scottish Government legal obligation to protect porpoises in our seas over and above the European Protected Species (EPS) status.
Cabinet Secretary for Environment Roseanna Cunningham said:
"I am pleased to designate Scotland's first harbour porpoise SAC. This will help maintain the favourable conservation status and provide protection to the species and their habitats.
"Work to develop a species conservation strategy and ensuring appropriate management, at site level now begins. Stakeholder engagement will be essential during this process and I encourage everyone with an interest to participate."
Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland said:
"It's fantastic news that Europe's largest Special Area of Conservation for harbour porpoise is to be located off the west coast of Scotland. We've long called for greater protection for this species and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government and others to ensure that this site contributes to a coherent and well managed network of marine protected areas. We know establishing marine protected areas works, so we look forward to seeing governments around the UK continuing to designate more locations in the future."
Special Areas of Conservation are areas of land, freshwater and/or sea designated under the European Union Habitats Directive as being particularly important for the conservation of the natural habitats and species of plants and animals they support.
Prior to this, harbour porpoise were the only species listed in the EU Habitats Directive for which Scotland did not have any Special Areas of Conservation.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) undertook the consultation on the proposal to designate the Inner Hebrides and the Minches as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) between 23 March 2016 and 18 May 2016.
The site was identified as an important area for harbour porpoise through a rigorous selection process. It will help maintain the favourable conservation status of harbour porpoise by providing protection to the species and their habitats.
The Inner Hebrides and the Minches site covers 13,801.99 km2 and it supports over 5000 individuals.
Scott Rogerson: 0131 244 2449 / 07795 207 923