Permanent protection for flapper skate
A consultation has been launched to gather views on making a Marine Protected Area (MPA) which is protecting the critically endangered flapper skate in the Inner Sound of Skye, permanent.
The Red Rocks and Longay Marine Protected Area (MPA) was urgently designated in March 2021, following discovery of the largest flapper skate nursery area in Scotland with the site being deemed nationally important for the conservation of the species.
At the time a range of measures were temporarily brought in to prohibit marine activities within the site such as: certain types of fishing, diving and construction to ensure the flapper skate and their eggs were not disturbed.
Little is known about flapper skate breeding grounds and habits due to their rarity. Their eggs take around 18 months to hatch and can be sensitive to disruption from marine activities during this crucial time.
Flapper skate were historically abundant in the North-east Atlantic and widely distributed in the seas surrounding the British Isles. However this has reduced significantly and the flapper skate now predominantly occurs in the northern North Sea, off Northern Ireland’s north-east coast and off Scotland’s north-west coast.
Now considered its own species, it was once thought that flapper skate and blue skate were the same species, called common skate. Flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) and blue skate (Dipturus batis) are now known as part of the common skate complex. Common skate are also a protected feature of the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura MPA.
During the gathering of evidence and assessment to support the permanent site designation for the conservation of flapper skate, important components of the Quaternary of Scotland geodiversity feature were identified. These are functionally linked to the flapper skate by providing suitable habitat for egg-laying and has been proposed as a second protected feature of the site.
As well as the consultation, an extension to the current urgent protection measures to ensure the protection within the site is being brought in through an Urgent Continuation Order. This will ensure protections remain in place whilst the public consultation on the proposals to make the site a permanent MPA with an MCO is undertaken. This will come into force on 16 March 2022.
Take part in the consultation to permanently designate the Red Rocks and Longay MPA.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks, from 1 February 2022 to 26 April 2022. The consultation is proposing to remove scallop diving and recreational diving from the list of prohibited activities in the draft Marine Conservation Order (MCO). These activities will be removed from the urgent MCO as soon as is reasonably practicable, in order for these prohibitions not to remain in place for any longer than is necessary.
This is the second urgent Marine Protected Area (MPA) to be created using powers within the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, the first being the Loch Carron urgent MPA created to protect flame shell beds in 2017. The Loch Carron MPA was made permanent in 2019.
Scotland’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network covers in excess of 37% of our sea area, exceeding the proposed new global target of 30% coverage by 2030.
Following further surveys to gather evidence for the permanent site in August and September 2021, a significant number of flapper skate eggs were discovered north of the original site. Scottish Ministers determined there was a need to urgently extend the boundary of the urgently designated Red Rocks and Longay MPA in the interim. The MPA was extended in December 2021.
- Marine environment: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
- Safeguarding flapper skate – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
- Surveying for flapper skate eggs | Scotland’s Nature (scotlandsnature.blog)
- Marine Scotland Critically endangered flapper skate study – Marine Scotland (blogs.gov.scot)