A new RSPB report published today (Tuesday, 18 March 2008) highlights the need for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Scotland's coast, as one measure to help seabird conservation and the marine environment. Scotland has 45% of the EU's breeding seabirds, with many species enduring a run of poor breeding seasons, and yet the sites identified currently have no legal protection.
The report – Safeguarding our Seabirds: Marine Protected Areas for the UK’s Seabirds - identifies 24 potential areas of national importance for seabirds in Scotland, among over 70 areas around the UK's shore which are worthy of protection, in addition to those which could be protected under current EU legislation. No mechanism exists to protect these areas, and it's vital that forthcoming marine legislation from Parliament's North and South of the Border address this.
Lloyd Austin, Head of Policy for RSPB Scotland said:
"Despite many sea cliffs which seabirds use to breed having environmental protection, the sea next to them which forms an important feeding area for seabirds has no such safety net. We don't think that there should be a complete halt to human activity in these areas, simply that these activities should be managed so as not to disrupt food sources or breeding success. Many species have suffered poor breeding seasons in recent years, and we urge the UK and Scottish governments to work together to produce complementary marine legislation which will protect these areas for seabirds and the wealth of other marine life which uses them."
Although some areas of international importance for marine wildlife can already be protected under European law, in order to offer our marine environment the full protection that it deserves, it will also be necessary to protect areas that do not qualify under European criteria, but which are ‘nationally’ important. The new marine legislation currently proposed by both UK and Scottish governments must provide a strong framework for the designation, protection and management of these nationally important marine protected areas too.