Shetland awarded special marine mammal status


Shetland has officially been recognised as an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA).

The Scottish archipelago now joins the illustrious group of IMMA regions that also includes Antarctica, Madagascar, Baja California and Patagonia.

Orca, Harbour Porpoise and Humpback and Minke Whales are among the cetaceans that Shetland waters support.

A breaching Orca at, BraeShetland (Bethan Clyne).


Shetland's special wildlife

Karen Hall, marine mammal advisor for NatureScot, was among those to submit a case for Shetland to receive IMMA status. She said: "There was a call for proposals in 2023 and we went 'hang on a minute, we should maybe be in there and promote how special Shetland is'. So I'm absolutely delighted that it's been recognised, it's put Shetland on the map and it highlights that we are an important area."

Shetland, lying close to the edge of the European continental shelf and surrounded by the waters of the North Atlantic, is perhaps the richest area for cetaceans in the entirety of Britain. Most of the larger whales in the region normally inhabit deep oceanic waters north and west of the shelf – however, since the edge of the shelf is only a short distance away from the northern shores of Unst, individuals stray into Shetland coastal waters.

IMMAs are defined as discrete portions of habitat, important to marine mammal species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. They are identified in order to prioritise their consideration for conservation measures by governments, intergovernmental organisations, conservation groups and the general public.