The largest marine protection area in the whole north-east Atlantic has now been officially designated to the far west of the Western Isles.

The new West of Scotland MPA was announced on Friday (9 October) by the Scottish Government’s natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon, after a consultation process which ended on 31 December 2019.

The protected 100,000 square kilometres of deep-sea habitat contributes to Scotland’s international commitments to protect the marine environment in the North-East Atlantic and is part of a package aimed at reaching the global target of 10% of seas protected by the end of 2020.

Featuring the deepest parts of Scotland’s seas at over 2,500 metres, the site safeguards some of the most vulnerable habitats and species on the planet, including deep sea sharks, coral gardens and a variety of other fauna.

It provides protection to 14 vulnerable habitats and species, including the leafscale gulper shark, orange roughy and Portuguese dogfish. Protected habitats include coral gardens, cold-water reefs and deep sea muds.

Ms Gougeon said: “Scotland’s deep sea waters are home to a number of threatened species and habitats including coral gardens and deep sea sharks.

“The designation of this site will address one of the last gaps in our MPA network and will be key in achieving the international target of 10% of the world’s oceans covered by an MPA by the end of 2020.

“It also clear evidence of Scotland’s commitment to lead by example internationally on environmental protection.”

The pictures show the area map of the West of Scotland MPA (ScotGov) and examples of some of the fragile corals and deep-sea species recorded in the area (JNCC).