An 800ft trench in the Moray Firth could be given a special government designation to protect the sea creatures which dwell there.
A series of public events will now be held to discuss the possibility of establishing a Marine Protected Area (MPA) off the north-east coast.
The Scottish Government is consulting on the four possible MPAs, with one of those being the Southern Trench in the Moray Firth.
It has a mix of warm and cold waters which attract minke whales to feed on the fish and sand eels there.
The site takes its name from the 800ft trench running parallel to the coast, and its soft mud provides a home to many species including Nephrops and crabs.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is running events to allow interested parties to find out more about the MPA proposals.
The information sessions will be held at the Fife Lodge Hotel in Banff on Monday, June 24, and at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh on Tuesday, June 25.
Peterhead’s Palace Hotel will host the consultation on Wednesday, June 26, and that is followed by Elgin Town Hall on Thursday, June 27.
They all take place between 2pm and 8pm.
Katie Gillham, head of marine ecosystems at SNH, said: “If designated, these new sites will contribute to the completion of the MPA network in Scotland’s seas and offer protection for important habitats and species.
“These include large numbers of basking sharks, minke whales and Risso’s dolphins that use these areas for breeding and feeding.
“The designation will also contribute to fulfilling Scotland’s international commitments to secure the health and biodiversity of our seas.
“We want to ensure that these proposals work for people and nature, and these events are a great opportunity for individuals and groups to come along, speak to our experts and find out more.”
The other proposed MPAs are north-east Lewis, Sea of the Hebrides and Shiant East Bank in the Minch.