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Saving our Seas through Law - Strengthening the legal framework for the Protection of the Marine Environment

The Saving our Seas through Law (SOS-Law) project aims to explore how the legal framework can be better used or reformed in order to achieve enhanced protection of marine ecosystems.

Holy Isle, Lamlash Bay

There is a growing awareness that the impacts of human activities on the world's oceans are reaching such a level that important marine ecosystems are at risk of collapsing, with little chance of short-term recovery. With a coastline of more than 10,000 miles, Scotland has access to a rich diversity of marine resources, but also a responsibility to ensure their long-term sustainable use.

The Scottish legal framework for the protection of the marine environment has evolved significantly within the last few years, but there remains a concern that the law may be lagging behind developments at the regional and international levels. Moreover, existing legal powers may not be being utilised to their full extent.

About the SOS-Law project

The SOS-Law Project involved a collaboration between a research team at Edinburgh Law School, led by Prof James Harrison, and the Community of Arran Seabed Trust, a community organisation working for the protection and restoration of the marine environment around Arran, the Clyde and Scotland.

The objective of this collaboration was to exchange knowledge on the existing legal framework for marine environmental protection on the one hand and the extant practical challenges in implementation of the law at the local level on the other hand, with a view to recommending ways of strengthening the Scottish legal framework.  Recommendations were also discussed with a broader stakeholder group at a workshop hosted by Edinburgh Law School on 11 July 2019.

The project was supported by a grant from the University of Edinburgh College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Impact and Knowledge Exchange Scheme. 

SOS-Law Policy Briefs Series

The SOS-LAW project has developed policy briefs exploring the key legal tools that are available to protect the marine environment in Scottish territorial and internal waters, with a view to identifying opportunities for effectively using tools and detecting gaps in the legal framework which could be remedied by legal reform.

Briefing No. 1 - The Establishment and Expansion of the Scottish Marine Protected Area Network (2019) (PDF)

Briefing No. 2 - The Enforcement of Fishing Restrictions in Marine Protected Areas (2019) (PDF)

Briefing No. 3 - Using Marine Spatial Planning to Support Marine Protected Area Management: A case study of the Clyde Region (2019) (PDF)

Briefing No. 4 - Legal Tools for the Management of Marine Protected Areas in Scotland (2019) (PDF)

Briefing No. 5 - Strictly Protected Marine Protected Areas: International Policy and National Practice (2021) (PDF)