Ambitious plans to help protect England’s rare and vulnerable seabirds have today (16 January 2020) been announced by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow.

New and extended special protection areas, designated to protect rare and vulnerable seabirds from human activity, such as fishing or outdoor recreation, will be designated in the Solent and near Middlesbrough.

Protected locations

Close to 1,000 pairs of three species of tern will benefit from a new Solent and Dorset Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) which will span more than 891 km2, equivalent to more than 125,000 football pitches. The area is the fifth most important foraging site in the UK for little tern and seventh most important for common tern during their breeding season.

The Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast SPA will also be extended by 109 km2, bringing the total area size to more than 122 km2, which equals more than 17,000 football pitches. With the extension in place, more than 35,000 individual birds such as pied avocet, ruff and migratory red knot will be protected.

The new and extended locations join 47 existing sites in English waters.

Speaking at the Coastal Futures conference in London, the Environment Minister also reiterated the UK’s commitment to strengthen protections for marine life impacted by climate change. The UK government has spearheaded international efforts at home and abroad to cut carbon emissions and in September formed the Global Ocean Alliance to push for international agreement to protect at least 30% of the global ocean through Marine Protected Areas by 2030.

World leader

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The UK continues to be a world leader in cutting carbon emissions and pushing for greater protections for marine life around our coast and in the global ocean.

“As the devastating impacts of climate change are only too visible, it is vital that we take decisive steps now that make a real difference to help protect our wildlife and allow vulnerable species to recover.

“We have already protected important nesting sites for seabirds, such as the little tern, and these new and additional protections to their feeding grounds, together with the development of a new strategy to protect our seabirds, will help the coastal environment recover, develop and, importantly, thrive.”

Independent Review

Regulators, such as Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), will be responsible for ensuring the SPAs are managed to protect their species and habitats, working with local fishing communities and other organisations.

The Environment Minister also reaffirmed support for the independent Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA) review, which was commissioned to explore the potential of HPMAs to recover marine wildlife and habitats by applying the highest level of protection from damaging activities.

For more information on the RYA’s position on Marine Protected Areas, visit the Planning and Environment hub.