Consultation on four new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) opened on Friday (June 7th) – and two of the areas are in the Minch east of the Isle of Lewis.

Marine Scotland says that the protected features of the proposed sites include basking shark, minke whale and Risso's dolphin, together with seabed habitats and geological features.

Whales and dolphins, collectively known as cetaceans, as well as basking sharks are protected wherever they occur throughout Scottish waters. The four possible MPAs would offer additional levels of protection to locations important for the various life stages of these species.

The MPAs include an area identified as North-East Lewis which surrounds Point and Broad Bay, extending up to Port of Ness. It’s identified as being especially important for Risso’s dolphins, which normally favour deeper waters, but around the Isle of Lewis gather closer to shore particularly during summer months. On Saturday June 8th the Tiumpan Head Watchers group reported large groups of common, white-beaked and Risso’s dolphins, together with porpoise and minke whales, some extremely close to the shore.

A smaller area around the Shiant Islands is also proposed for protection, with protection sought for a complex underwater landscape and a biologically diverse and dynamic marine environment, evolved over the last ten thousand years.

The two other areas are in the Sea of the Hebrides, between Uist, Barra and Skye, and the Southern Trench north and east of Aberdeen.

A 12-week consultation process, which began on Friday (June 7th) will include public meetings at Leverburgh Village Hall on July 23rd and at the Bridge Centre in Stornoway on July 25th.

Detailed information on all the proposed locations is available from the Scottish Natural Heritage website at 

https://www.nature.scot/2019-possible-nature-conservation-marine-protected-areas-consultatio