WDCS calls for Scottish protection for whales
A wildlife charity has asked that a new network of Scottish marine protected areas (MPAs) have specific measures to protect whales and dolphins.
MSPs are debating plans for two special areas of conservation (SACs) in the Sound of Barra in the Western Isles.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said species such as Risso's dolphin and minke whale needed protection.
An announcement on the MPA network is expected this year.
Under Scottish government proposals, the marine protected areas would cover parts of the Moray Firth and the sea off the Western Isles and Aberdeenshire.
WDCS said the waters provided habitats for minke whales, Risso's dolphins and white-beaked dolphins.
The society has asked people living on the nearby coasts to back its call for greater protection for the animals to be built into the MPA rules.
WDCS head of Scottish policy, Sarah Dolman, said the organisation backed the government's efforts to protect marine wildlife.
She added: "However, we have very real fears that mobile species, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, will not be adequately protected, despite the scientific evidence that we have provided to demonstrate such areas are possible - and necessary.
"Protection of areas used for important biological activities, such as feeding and calving, for species like minke whales, Risso's dolphins and white-beaked dolphins are urgently needed.
"Further, MPAs should include bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises, which Scotland has the highest densities of in the whole of Europe."