N E W S F E E D S >>>
Action Plan Contents Index

Action Plan Front Page

Biodiversity Index

Nature & Environment Index Page

The Caithness Biodiversity Action Plan - February 2003



Caithness has some vast, beautiful and unspoilt stretches of coastline, from the broad, sandy beaches at Dunnet and Reiss to the storm-torn sea cliffs at Duncansby, Dunnet Head and Holburn Head. 

Unlike much of the rest of the United Kingdom, the waters and coasts around Caithness remain relatively unmodified, and are valued for fishing and recreation purposes as well as landscape and biodiversity.

Biodiversity Objectives
  • Ensure that marine and coastal habitats are managed in a way that takes account of all their natural interests (wildlife and plants).
  • Ensure that future marine developments take account of biodiversity.
  • Tackle the issue of marine and coastal litter and pollution.
  • Establish safe, non-destructive and unobtrusive access to beaches and other robust coastal areas.
  • Raise general awareness about marine life and coastal habitats.
  • Encourage the formation of and adherence to coastal zone management plans.

Habitat Map

There are isolated areas of horse mussel beds around Stroma. In the deeper waters further offshore, deep-water mud habitats support many species of crab as well as burrowing shrimp, sea pens and large molluscs. 

The Sea

Habitats and species

The seabed around Caithness is composed mainly of exposed bedrock, sand and gravel. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan classifies this as sublittoral sands and gravels, and the inshore waters of the Moray Firth provide good nursery areas for fish such as sandeels, herring and plaice.

Storm At Wick Harbour

The Pentland Firth is famous for its tidal rapids, a term used by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan to cover a range of high energy environments including deep tidal streams and tide-swept habitats. With names such as the ‘Boars of
Duncansby’ and the ‘Merry Men of Mey’, our tidal rapids support characteristic marine communities rich in biodiversity, nourished by food brought on each tide.

Many rare mammals, birds and fish have been sighted or caught in and around Caithness waters.  Harbour porpoises, dolphin species and minke and long-finned pilot whales are regularly seen from the shore and boats. Both grey and common seals come close to the shore to feed, rest and raise their pups, and otters can be seen close to river mouths in some of the quieter locations.

Coastal waters are important feeding grounds for breeding seabirds such as puffins, guillemots and razorbills. In winter, the waters around Caithness support coastal populations of common scoter and long-tailed, goldeneye and eider ducks, and great northern and red-throated divers are also regular visitors.

The Pentland Firth and North Sea once offered prime fishing grounds. Common skate, cod, hake, herring, mackerel, plaice, saithe, sole, whiting, monkfish and ling are all caught in inshore waters around Caithness.  Occasionally, leatherback turtles have been recorded, having been brought to Scotland on the Gulf Stream Atlantic current.

       Back to What Can You Do     Forward to Sea and Coast Main Issues