RSPB calls for seabirds to be protected at Marine Conservation Zones

The bird conservation charity argues that wildlife should be protected above the waves as well as below them.

A puffin colony on the Farne Islands. © Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
A puffin colony on the Farne Islands. © Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Although Britain’s Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) provides protection for marine wildlife below the waves, there is nothing currently in place to protect the important colonies of birds that rely on these areas.

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The RSPB has requested that the UK Government designate one new site as an MCZ, and for five MCZs that already exist to be extended for colonies of seabirds, or to include seabirds as the list of species that they are designated for.

The time for calling for this change has never been more ripe, as the government will be consulting on its final phase of designating new MCZs in 2017, after which time there will be no more opportunity to secure further protection for seabirds.

Furthermore, according to the recent State of Nature 2016 report, over 25 per cent of UK coastal breeding birds are red-listed, meaning that they are of the highest conservation priority.

“On land, English nesting seabirds are protected from human activities such as development and disturbance,” said Martin Harper, RSPB’s Director of Conservation. “However, when they leave their colonies and travel out to sea, most of the vital areas they use for feeding, preening and resting are not currently safeguarded in the same way.”

The RSPB argues that as areas such as Lundy off the coast of Devon, and the Cumbria coast, are crucial feeding grounds for seabirds such as puffins, kittiwake and razorbill, they require protection to help ensure these birds are safe on UK shores.

“We believe protected conservation areas are a vital tool to secure a future for our seabirds and help make colonies more resilient to the threats they face such as the impacts of climate change,” commented Harper.

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