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Protected areas

A significant number of the water bodies in Scotland are designated as protected areas.

This is because of their importance for special purposes such as wildlife conservation, drinking water supply, shellfish harvesting or bathing.

These designated areas are vital to ensure that the diverse ecosystems and cultural and economic benefits contained within them are safeguarded. Protected areas are also important drivers of improvement objectives in the river basin plan.

We maintain a register of protected areas, which helps to ensure that water bodies within these areas are managed and that they achieve the objectives required by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Water Environment (Register of Protected Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 

Areas designated as requiring special protection and/or conservation include:

Shellfish waters

The Shellfish Waters Directive was repealed in December 2013 and has been replaced by the Water Environment (Shellfish Water Protected Areas: Designation) (Scotland) Order 2013which came into force on 22 December 2013.

Loch Ryan was designated separately and came into force on 4/10/16: The Water Environment (Shellfish Water Protected Areas: Designation) (Scotland) Order 2016.

This identifies 85 coastal areas as shellfish waters, which are identified on a series of maps.

We have previously produced site reports for shellfish waters which were completed in 2010 and should be read alongside our 2013 compliance summary spreadsheet. They will be reviewed in due course in line with the new Designation Order.

Shellfish harvesting areas were originally identified under the terms of the repealed Shellfish Directive and are administered in Scotland by the Food Standards Agency. Harvesting areas often lie either wholly or partially within the designated waters that we monitor, but this is not always the case.

Bathing waters

Previously designated under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC), these waters are now covered by the revised Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC).

Our bathing waters page contains more information about how we monitor and report on bathing waters.

Nutrient sensitive areas

These comprise nitrate vulnerable zones and polluted waters designated under the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) and areas designated as sensitive areas under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC].

Maps of the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones are available on the Scottish Government website.

Our nitrates monitoring page contains more information about how we monitor and report on nutrient sensitive areas. A map of the current nutrient sensitive areas is available on the Scottish Government website.

Areas designated for the protection of habitats or species

These are areas previously designated for the protection of habitats or species where maintaining or improving the status of water is important for their protection.

They comprise the aquatic part of Natura2000 sites – Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

Scottish Natural Heritageis a key partner in the protection and management of Natura2000 sites.

Waters used for the abstraction of drinking water

These are protected areas designated under the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) that were previously protected by the Surface Water Abstraction Directive (75/440/EEC), which was repealed in 2007.

The register of Drinking Water Protected Areasconsists of a list of sites and a set of maps showing the relevant protected areas in the Scotland and Solway Tweed river basin districts.

Marine Protected Areas

The Marine (Scotland) Acthas established a new power for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the seas around Scotland, to recognise features of national importance and meet international commitments for developing a network of MPAs.

This complements the MPA powersintroduced through the Marine and Coastal Access Act for offshore waters around Scotland. The network is designed to safeguard the future of rich and diverse coastal habitats and maintain a healthy marine ecosystem.

Not all Marine PAs lie within SEPA/SNH’s jurisdiction. Areas beyond the 12 nautical mile limit are identified by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee].

Contact us

For more information about protected areas, please contact us.