Fifteen new areas give protection to UK seas
In August fifteen new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were
submitted by the UK Government to the European Commission to be included within the European ‘Natura 2000’
network of protected areas. This more than doubled the area of our
seas that are protected.
The sites, which were selected on the basis of
the best scientific evidence available, underwent a rigorous and
transparent assessment and bring protection to habitats including
reefs, sea caves and sandbanks, where marine life thrives.
Sandbanks act as nursery grounds for many commercial fish species
such as plaice and sole whilst also supporting sand eel communities
that are a food source for seabirds and mammals such as seals.
Reefs support a colourful array of sponges, sea squirts and corals
that provide shelter for crabs, lobsters and fish such as the
multi-coloured cuckoo wrasse. Birds will also benefit, with sites
selected for the conservation of the red-throated diver and common
However, the Natura 2000 network is still not
complete and JNCC are continuing to work on identifying new sites
in UK offshore waters for sandbanks, reefs and submarine structures
made by leaking gases. We have just finished consulting on the
Dogger Bank possible Special Area of Conservation which has been
selected to protect its sandbank habitat and are currently
analysing the responses that have been received. A report of the
consultation will be made available from our website in due course.
If designated, the site will adjoin with neighbouring sites in
Dutch and German waters to create an international site which
protects the whole of the Dogger Bank.
Once our MPA network is completed, these
European marine sites will form part of an ecologically coherent
network with the marine components of Sites of Special Scientific
Interest and Ramsar sites, as well as new Marine Conservation Zones
and Scottish Marine Protected Areas.