A stretch of the Inner Sound of Skye has been given marine protected area (MPA) status to safeguard the critically endangered flapper skate.
The Scottish Government said the site will help to protect an “egg nursery area” – the largest of its kind to be identified in Scotland.
The MPA will come into force on March 17 and will prohibit activities such as fishing, diving and constriction for at least 12 months.
If, after a year permanent protection is found to be necessary, then proposals will undergo a full stakeholder engagement process, public consultation and impact assessments.
Ben Macpherson, minister for rural affairs and the natural environment, said: “The flapper skate, which was once abundant in our seas, is now only found in the northern area of the North Sea and off Scotland’s north-west coast.
“The designation of this new marine protected area will allow further information to be gathered to inform permanent proposals and will safeguard an area of vital importance to this critically endangered species.
“This will support conservation efforts to help it recover back to a healthy status in Scottish waters.”
This is the second urgent MPA to be created using powers within the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The first was in Loch Carron to protect flame shell beds in 2017. The Loch Carron MPA was made permanent in 2019.
Scotland’s MPA network covers in excess of 37% of the country’s sea area, exceeding the proposed new global target of 30% coverage by 2030.
Each site in the network is managed to achieve its conservation objectives and work is under way to develop fisheries management proposals for a number of the sites.
These areas not only protect the flapper skate, but a wide variety of species and habitats including other iconic species like the minke whale, basking sharks and Risso’s dolphins.