Bolstering the Nature Scot MPA (Marine Protected Area) network means protecting areas that benefit the creatures we sometimes don’t often see -- such as the marine worms, clams, brittlestars, crabs and starfish that thrive in the complex underwater environment of the Shiant East Bank MPA.
A short-spined sea scorpion scanning the sandy floor
Located in the middle of the Minch, the Shiant East Bank -- which separates Scotland’s Outer Hebrides from the mainland -- was largely sculpted by the retreating ice sheet that once covered much of Scotland over 10,000 years ago. Now, its rugged features provide the optimal environment for a whole host of Scotland’s sea life. And no, we’re not talking about the ‘blue men of the Minch’! Infamous for stalking down unlucky sailors to sink their boat. Instead, we’re referring to:
- Strong tides create mosaics of sand, popular with marine worms, clams, brittlestars, crabs and starfish
- Exposed outcrops of volcanic rock -- sometimes up to 40 metres high! -- offer the elevation needed for filter feeders -- such as sea fans and sponges -- to access nutrient-rich water.
- Large, irregular-shaped banks induce the rush of nutrient-rich water from below, attracting small fish and crabs, which -- you guessed it -- attracts much larger animals, like whales, dolphins, porpoises and seabirds.
A northern sea fan community
So while we can’t always see the activity in the deep blue below, a healthy underwater landscape helps to provide value to the entire food chain -- little and large.
In fact, come aboard one of the many Hebridean Adventures Cruises sailing through the Shiant East bank -- a prime location for dolphin and whale spotting. What are you waiting for?
Possible Marine Protected Areas in Scotland. Photo: NatureScot & the Scottish Government
Official MPA status for this and 3 other sites we have covered previously was finally announced back in early December 2020. Please download the leaflet below for more information.
Click the link to view the full PDF: https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2019-06/Shiant%20East%20Bank%20possible%20MPA%20-%20Site%20Summary%20Leaflet.pdf