New conservation areas announced

Monday 21st November 2011

Copyright Paul NaylorCopyright Paul Naylor

As a major expansion of the European Union’s Natura 2000 sites is announced, The Wildlife Trusts are calling for more stringent protection measures to be put in place. Without them, there is a risk the network will be ineffective, says the conservation organisation.

Natura 2000* is the European Union’s network of protected areas.  It consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).   Human activities can be carried out inside the network provided they are sustainable and do not harm the natural environment.

Today’s announcement includes 13 new SACs to protect cold water corals and sand banks in UK waters.  But The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that current and proposed management measures within SACs are failing to provide adequate protection.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

We welcome the designation of these sites on land and offshore to help protect these important sites for the future.  Designation is only the first step – albeit an important one.  It is essential that the Government looks at all activities taking place in the SACs.  The Marine Management Organisation also needs to take action to prevent any further degradation.  At present, damaging fishing activities continue to undermine the ecological value of some of these sites.

“If the right management is put in place, these sites could be a cornerstone of the ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas we have been calling for. Only with clear, well-enforced conservation measures in place will our marine life recover from the devastating declines it has suffered.”

Notes for editors:

*Natura 2000 sites
Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas, consisting of Special Areas of Conservation established under the EU Habitats Directive and Special Protection Areas established under the EU Birds Directive.  The network consists of around 26,000 sites.  The latest additions add 166 new sites covering nearly 18,800 square kilometres.  More than 90 % of the area added is made up of marine sites (17,000 km²), mainly in the UK, but also in France, Belgium, Greece, Cyprus and Italy.