Scotland could be the first country to provide designated areas of protection to minke whale and basking sharks, if plans proposed by the Scottish Government go ahead.
Four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including one in the Sea of the Hebrides and one in North-east Lewis, have been proposed.
Launching a consultation about the plans on World Oceans Day, Minister for the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon said: “It is our duty to help protect and enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations. Not only are they fundamental to our way of life, they provide habitats for a huge diversity of marine wildlife and it is vital that we ensure appropriate protection for them.
“Scotland’s seas account for 61% of the UK’s waters and are internationally recognised as being important for whales, dolphins and basking sharks. These MPAs would offer additional levels of protection to these species, and ensure the MPA network is fully representative of Scotland’s marine diversity.
“World Oceans Day is the perfect time to celebrate and acknowledge the valuable cultural and economic role of Scotland’s seas and I would urge everyone to consider the evidence that has been presented along with the consultation, and share their views on the expansion of Scotland’s MPA network.”
A 12-week consultation was held on the planned MPA's. The consultation closed on 30 August.