Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead said the designation of Scottish Marine Regions is a 'key element' of the implementation of the Marine (Scotland) Act.
Mr Lochhead said: "This consultation seeks to consider the best way to define these regions, which are so important to the Marine (Scotland) Act."
"The aim is to allow marine decisionmaking to take place at local levels, where the impact can be fully and properly assessed.
"Scotland's seas are home to some of the world's most spectacular wildlife and habitats, and have the potential to power our nation through wind and wave and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
"Scottish Marine Regions will help to deliver the mechanism to protect important marine habitats and species and to be more joined up with our crucial fisheries industry.
"Improved planning and licensing will support the development of renewable marine energy. We owe it to future generations to ensure our seas are managed and harvested sustainably. Economic growth is vital, but it should be balanced with protection for our stunning marine environment."
Consultees are being asked to consider:
- Three options for defining the marine region boundaries. These are physical characteristics of Firths and Islands; physical characteristics with further divisions in the west coast and modification of boundaries in the east coast to address the large size of some of the regions; and existing administrative models of the Area Advisory Groups or Inshore Fisheries Groups.
- The seaward limit of the regions of 3nm or 6nm from baseline, and, for those west coast regions with large amounts of internal seas whether the seaward boundary should be measured from mean high water spring tides.
The options presented would result in 10-12 Scottish Marine Regions.
The consultation will run until the end of February, after which responses will be analysed.
The consultation can be accessed on request, and will also be available through meetings.