Monitoring the condition of our Marine Protected Areas

Almost 90 years after St Kilda’s last 36 residents were evacuated to the mainland, the islands remain hugely important for the wildlife they support.   The World Heritage Site hosts huge seabird populations, including the world’s second largest colony of North Atlantic gannets; and the waters around St Kilda are part of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network, designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for their reefs and sea caves, which attract a wealth of spectacular sea life.

Crucial to the management of our MPA network, as with protected areas on land, is monitoring. At each site we monitor the condition of a range of individual natural features of special interest: these can be a habitat, such as a marine reef, a species population, or geological formations, such as underwater caves.

In 2015 we sent a team of divers out to St Kilda to survey the sites’ special reefs and sea caves. The purpose of this survey was to judge the current condition of the site and to establish a baseline against which future assessments of the site’s special features could be made. Weather conditions severely interrupted the team’s plans but they managed to survey four caves at St Kilda, returning with valuable data and a collection of stunning photographs.

We publish the reports from all of our marine surveys and you can find them, including the report of the St Kilda survey, on our website. To see more photographs from this and other marine surveys visit our FlickR page.

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