Protection for marine life

Stony reef habitat on Wyville Thomson RidgeNearly 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 on 20 December.

Seven areas have been earmarked to become the UK’s first offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), depending on public consultation. 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. Stony reef habitat on Wyville Thomson Ridge
  • 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.

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.

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

Stony reef habitat on Wyville Thomson Ridge“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.”

Plans to consider the seven sites for SAC status were published on 20 December 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.

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. 

The proposals set out in the consultation are available on the JNCC website.

The consultation closes on 13 March 2008.

Page published: 20 December 2007

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs