Map of the West of Scotland MPA designated area

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Published: West of Scotland deep sea reserve socio-economic assessment

Marine Scotland has made available the business and regulatory impact assessment associated with the designation of the largest MPA in European waters.

In September 2020, the Scottish Government announced the establishment of a Deep Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) off the West of Scotland. Following the announcement, it has since made the business and regulatory impact assessment (BRIA) available.

The Scottish Government 2017-2018 programme committed it to assessing the feasibility of creating a Deep Sea Marine Reserve. Previous work to identify sites for the MPA network began with a list of habitats and species that would benefit from protection, before selecting appropriate locations. For the West of Scotland MPA, identification was achieved through a unique process.

An area was identified, then a scientific review undertaken to identify any features that merited protection within that area, rather than identifying the feature and then searching for their location. The basis of the area was the EU Deep Sea Fisheries Regulation, which prohibited demersal trawling in waters deeper than 800m.

The West of Scotland MPA was selected for consultation as it would increase the vulnerable habitats and species protected in the Scottish MPA network, as well as making a significant new contribution to the OSPAR network.

In June 2019, Marine Scotland published a sustainability appraisal, prepared by ABPmer, for the development of a Deep Sea Marine Reserve to the West of Scotland.

To inform decision-making, following successful Government and public consultation, a business and regulatory impact assessment (BRIA) was commissioned to understand the socio-economic impacts of the proposed designation.

Prepared by ABPmer and eftec, the evidence in the BRIA is drawn from the work of statutory nature conservation body JNCC. It brings together the science-led arguments for management, and the projected potential social and economic consequences of such action.

Key findings from the West of Scotland MPA BRIA


Designation will help conserve deep sea biodiversity in the protected area and Scotland as a whole, complementing existing MPAs and reducing the risk of irreversible ecosystem degradation.

Other benefits include stock recovery of commercial species, carbon storage, and detoxification of water and sediment.


Future management measures following designation could impact a number of marine industries, in particular it might restrict commercial fishing activity, potentially causing a loss or displacement of output. However, transferring activity to other grounds could result in reduced or no income loss.

Competition assessment

Given existing measures, it is unlikely that designation will significantly impact competitiveness of commercial fishing or other industries operating in the area.

Implementation and delivery plan

Once designated, public bodies will have to make decisions according to the provisions defined in legislation to protect MPAs.

Summary and recommendation

It is proposed that West of Scotland becomes an MPA under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.


On 25 September 2020, Scottish Ministers designated the deep sea marine reserve as an MPA, which came into effect on 9 October.

Read the full BRIA for the West of Scotland MPA at

Image: Marine Scotland NMPI © Crown copyright; used with permission