A newly designated Northumberland Marine Special Protection Area (SPA) stretches 12 miles from the coastline into the North Sea, and covers an area of more than 120,000 football pitches.

It’s the most important site in the UK for Arctic, common and roseate terns, the second most important site for sandwich tern, and the third most important site for Atlantic puffin.

International designation will help ensure any disturbance to the birds’ essential open water feeding areas is minimised, so the birds have a safe space to feed in.

It builds on the protection already afforded to important breeding sites via the network of SPAs at Coquet Island, Farne Islands, Lindisfarne and Northumbria Coast. Today’s designation will help to protect the full range of habitats needed by the birds.

Blue-belt strengthened

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We already have one of the strongest track records in the world when it comes to looking after our precious marine environment, and today’s designations will strengthen our blue-belt of protected areas while helping seabirds across the country thrive.”

Along with the new Northumberland Marine SPA, Natural England also announced extensions to Hamford Water SPA in Essex and Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary SPA in Cumbria.

These designations add an area of more than 150,000 football pitches (450 square miles) to the existing Marine Protected Area network. This gives international protection to feeding habitats for over 425,000 seabirds for the first time.

Facts and figures

As an important breeding site in the UK Northumberland Marine SPA ranks:

  • top for Arctic tern (9,564 individuals), common tern (2,572) and roseate tern (160)
  • 2nd for Sandwich tern (4,324 individuals)
  • 3rd for Atlantic puffin (108,484 individuals)
  • 4th for common guillemot (65,751 individuals)

RYA position

The RYA supports the UK and Devolved Governments’ shared vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. We recognise that establishing an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas would contribute towards achieving this vision. The RYA believes that in most cases this vision can be achieved without any adverse effect on either the public right or the safety of navigation for recreational boating. 

We believe there are three key issues that are critical to recreational boating interests in both the designation and management of marine protected areas (MPAs). These are:  

  1. The impact of MPAs on legitimate uses of the sea 
  2. The need for objective and robust evidence in the decision-making process 
  3. The proportionality, enforceability and effectiveness of proposals 

For further information, visit our Planning and Environment hub.

Top image: Atlantic puffin © Natural England