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Britain Unveils Plan To Extend Sea Life Protection

Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (UK)

Plans to extend sea life protection

Nearly 10,000 square kilometres (4,000 square miles) of sea around Britain could get special status to extend protection for marine life under new proposals unveiled today.

Seven areas have been earmarked to become, depending on public consultation, the UK's first offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). They are:

* Braemar Pockmarks - approximately 240 km east of the Orkney Islands.

* Darwin Mounds - approximately 160 km north west of Cape Wrath, off north west coast of Scotland.

* Haig Fras - 95 km north west of the Isles of Scilly.

* North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef - off the north-east coast of Norfolk.

* Scanner Pockmark - approximately 185 km off the north east coast of Scotland.

* Stanton Banks - south of the Outer Hebrides.

* Wyville Thomson Ridge - west of Scotland, in the Atlantic Ocean.

The seven chosen areas would extend protection for important sea life and habitats such as sandbanks and cold water corals beyond the UK's 12-mile territorial waters limit.

Plans to consider the sites for SAC status were published today by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), statutory nature conservation advisers to government. Following consultation the JNCC will consider whether to recommend to government that the sites are submitted to the European Commission for approval.

Jonathan Shaw, Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs Minister,said:

"The UK has one of the richest marine environments in the world. We want to bring conservation standards at sea up to the level of those that we have on land, to give greater protection to sea life.

"I want to see a network of marine protected areas around the UK by 2012, and these seven new proposed offshore areas would be a big part of that." The Government is committed to developing a strong network of marine protected areas by 2012 to conserve the richness of our marine wildlife. The network will incorporate the Marine Conservation Zones being proposed in the Marine Bill, SACs and Special Protection Areas.

To see the proposals go to Deadline for responses is 13 March 2008.


1) The World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Convention on Biological Diversity have set out global commitments for a network of comprehensive, representative, effectively managed national and regional protected area systems in the marine environment by 2012. The UK is committed to reaching this challenging and important conservation target and will continue to progress the identification and designation of nationally and internationally important marine protected areas in UK waters.

2) The UK has a well-developed network of land-based nature reserves including Local Nature Reserves, SSSIs and European Sites. Our marine network of sites is currently limited to coastal and inshore Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) for habitats and marine species, and coastal Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds. The Government is committed to developing a strong network of marine protected areas to conserve the richness of our marine wildlife. We are aiming to have a substantively complete network by 2012. The network will incorporate the SACs and SPAs, and also include a number of highly protected sites or "Marine Reserves" from which all extractive uses are excluded. There is an urgent need to consider how much of the network would need to be highly protected to deliver the conservation benefits we are seeking - and how this would fit with our wider objectives for the sea.

3) Our marine protected area network needs to be big enough to protect rare, threatened and valued habitats throughout our seas - and to conserve representative areas that are vital for the health of marine ecosystems. A number of reports have suggested that this network will need to cover some 20-40% of our seas and this may well be the case. The Government's conservation advisers are working on a vision for the network which will need to draw upon the views of all stakeholders to fulfil our objectives and be fit for purpose.


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