Europe's largest marine protected area comes into force

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Deep sea lifeImage source, Deep Links Project
Image caption,
The marine life in the area includes squid and octopuses

Europe's largest marine protected area (MPA) has come into force for an area of deep sea off the Western Isles.

The West of Scotland MPA involves an area of more than 38,610 sq miles (100,000 sq km) in the north-east Atlantic.

Coral reefs and deep-sea sharks are among the wildlife found at depths of 2,500m (8,202ft).

The designation aims to protect habitats from marine industry projects and some types of fishing.

Marine Scotland, a civil service directorate within the Scottish government, confirmed the protection was now in place.

More than 30% of Scotland's seas are now covered by MPAs.

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The West of Scotland MPA offers protection to habitats on seamounts, which are extinct volcanoes.

There are also areas of deep-sea mud, cold- water coral reefs and habitat inhabited by fish such as blue ling, gulper sharks and Portuguese dogfish.

Image source, Scottish government/Marine Scotland
Image caption,
The West of Scotland MPA covers an are of the north east Atlantic

Three telecommunications cables cross the site and, under MPA rules, the operators would be asked to take measures to minimise potential harm caused by maintenance work.

Oil and gas exploration has taken place in the area west of the Western Isles, and further activity may require "additional mitigation measures on a case-by-case basis to achieve conservation objectives".

The Scottish government had earlier held a public consultation on the new MPA.