The waters off the coast of Tayside have been made a Special Protection Area, giving new legal safeguards to wildlife.
The Scottish Government has added 12 sites, including the area from the Outer Firth of Forth to St Andrews Bay Complex, which stretches from Arbroath to St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire.
It means there are now 230 protected areas around Scotland.
The Isle of May, off the coast of Fife, is included in the new zone. It is home to puffins and other birds and featured in the recent series of BBC’s Autumnwatch.
The legal status means future development and activity capable of damaging the areas must be strictly controlled.
The other areas given SPA status are:
- Solway Firth
- Seas off St Kilda
- Seas off Foula
- Moray Firth
- Ythan Estuary, sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch
- Bluemull and Colgrave Sounds
- East mainland coast Shetland
- Sound of Gigha
- Coll and Tiree
- The west coast of the Outer Hebrides
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) welcomed the move but did express frustration that Scapa Flow, in Orkney, was not included.
Toby Wilson, senior conservation officer for the RSPB in central Scotland, said: ” The announcements are very welcome news and much needed to protect our internationally important seabird populations, many of which are in decline.
“These marine SPAs are essential in order to safeguard the feeding grounds of seabirds that nest on the Isle of May, St Abb’s Head and other colonies along the coast.
“Seabirds typically spend a small proportion of their time onshore and are dependent on rich foraging areas across large areas of sea to survive and breed.”
Mairi Gougeon, natural environment minister and MSP for Angus North and Mearns, said: “It is our duty to help protect and enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations.
“These designations continue Scotland’s commitment to lead by example on environmental protection.
“Not only are our seas fundamental to our way of life, they provide habitats for a hugely diverse range of marine wildlife and it is vital that we ensure appropriate protection for them.
“Protecting Scotland’s marine environment is also crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our marine industries.”