Highly Protected Marine Areas

An update on Highly Protected Marine Areas, July 2023

On Thursday 29th July, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, Màiri McAllan announced that the Scottish Government would not be proceeding with proposals to designate 10% Scotland’s seas as HPMAs by 2026. You can watch the full statement here.

COAST will be updating this page to reflect these recent developments ASAP. 


At the end of last year the Scottish Government launched a new public consultation to gather views on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). 

The HPMAs project is part of the joint programme for government drawn up between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party in 2021. The agreement sets out the goal to designate 10% of Scotland’s seas as HPMAs, in a bid to protect and improve the health of Scotland’s marine environment.  

The Scottish Government recognises the devastating impact that habitat degradation and biodiversity loss have on marine ecosystems, and the knock-on effects for the maritime industries and coastal communities that rely on our seas.  To address this, the Government has set ecological targets for the health of the marine environment, but it admits it is currently failing to achieve them.  

The HPMA project is one or a number of proposed measures that could be used to address the poor health of our seas. The current consultation is the very first step in this process and aims to gather the public’s views on the process for identifying possible HPMAs further down the line.  

COAST position statement on Highly Protected Marine Areas:

  • COAST is not proposing any HPMAs and will not do so without full discussion and majority support of the Arran community including local fishers 
  • Should Scottish Government propose any Arran sites as possible HPMAs in the future, COAST will strive to keep the community as informed and engaged as possible throughout the entire process 
  • There are currently no specific site proposals for HPMAs anywhere in Scotland 
  • Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) are one approach proposed by Scottish Government to help look after the health of Scotland’s marine environment 
  • A Scottish Government consultation is asking for the public’s views on how HPMAs could be identified in the future.

COAST’s view is that any future HPMAs in Scotland should be taken forward as part of a more integrated approach to managing Scotland’s seas to provide the best opportunities to recover marine ecosystems and support sustainable use. Results of research in the Lamlash Bay No Take Zone demonstrate that protected areas such as this can help marine life and seabed habitats recover and thrive, but they need to be developed in the right way and with community support.   

COAST hopes that this clarification is helpful for the local community and encourages anyone with further questions or views to complete the consultation or share these directly with COAST. The consultation closes on April 17th. 

Read on for more information, news coverage and discussion on HPMAs: