Scotland’s seas are a global hotspot for basking sharks, the second largest fish on Earth. These ocean giants migrate to the rich waters off the west coast of Scotland each summer, travelling from as far away as the Canary Islands.

Right now, we have an opportunity to make a difference to the future of these incredible animals. The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on four new Marine Protected Areas, including one specifically for basking sharks.

Will you help to make Scottish seas a haven for basking sharks?

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Despite the Sea of the Hebrides on Scotland’s west coast being one of the world’s largest basking shark hotspots, numbers are still far lower than they should be due to several centuries of hunting and exploitation. It is estimated that almost 100,000 basking sharks were hunted in the North Atlantic during the 19th and 20th Centuries, and the industry continued in Scotland until as recently as 1994.

Today, basking sharks are considered ‘vulnerable’ and whilst they have been a protected species in Scotland since 1998, they still face threats in Scottish seas from fishing gear, boat traffic and microplastics.

The proposed Sea of the Hebrides Marine Protected Area will provide additional protections to basking sharks and other species such as minke whales within this important site.

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The Marine Protected Areas

The current proposal is for four new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to be added to Scotland’s existing MPA network. The four proposals have been selected to protect important habitats and several large mobile species including Risso’s dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks.

Click on the buttons below to find out more about each of the proposed MPAs.

Sea of the Hebrides

The mixing of cool, nutrient-rich waters with warmer waters between the coast of the mainland and the Outer Hebrides create ideal feeding conditions for the basking sharks and minke whales that migrate here during the summer months.

For more information, view the site summary leaflet.

Minke Whale
© Alexander Mustard, 2020VISION

North-East Lewis

The sea off the north-east coast of the Isle of Lewis is the only area in Scotland where Risso’s dolphins can be seen in high numbers. Sandeels - an important food source for many seabirds - are also prevalent in this area.

For more information, view the site summary leaflet.

Minke Whale
© Eleanor Stone

Shiant East Bank

Throughout this area, strong currents create mosaics of sand and mixed sediments favoured by many marine animals, and submerged volcanic outcrops provide the perfect habitat for sea fans and sponges.

For more information, view the site summary leaflet.

© Ben James, SNH

Southern Trench

The surface waters off the Aberdeenshire coast provide an important feeding ground for minke whales, whilst the deep muddy seabed in this area hosts a thriving marine community.

For more information, view the site summary leaflet.

Minke Whale
© Tom McDonnell

In order to secure the protection of these designated areas, we need your support.

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Show your support

To show your support for the four new Marine Protected Areas, please enter your details below.

Alternatively, to fill out the full consultation response, visit the Scottish Government website by clicking here.

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Thank you for your interest in supporting the designation of four new Marine Protected Areas in Scotland.

The Scottish Government consultation on these MPAs has now closed.

We expect a decision to be announced later this year, so keep an eye on the websites of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Marine Conservation Society for further updates.


• Basking sharks can grow to more than 12 metres long but feed on microscopic plankton. Using structures known as gill rakers, they filter plankton from the water by swimming along with their mouths open.

• For at least 200 years, basking sharks were hunted in Scottish waters for the oil contained within their livers. This oil was used for a wide range of products, from cosmetics and skin creams, to anti-fouling on boats and fuel for streetlamps.

• Very little is known about basking shark reproduction. Mating has never been observed and only a single pregnant female carrying six unborn pups is known to have been caught.