20/12/2007

Plans To Protect Marine Life Unveiled

Nearly 4,000 square miles of sea around Britain could get special status to extend protection for marine life under new proposals unveiled today.

Seven areas have been earmarked to become, depending on public consultation, the UK's first offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

They are: Braemar Pockmarks (approximately 240km east of the Orkney Islands); Darwin Mounds (approximately 160km north west of Cape Wrath, off north west coast of Scotland); Haig Fras (95 miles north west of the Isles of Scilly); North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef - off the north east coast of Norfolk; Scanner Pockmark (approximately 185km off the north east coast of Scotland); Stanton Banks (south of the Outer Hebrides); 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 water limits.

Plans to consider the sites for SAC status were published today 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.

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

The network will incorporate the Marine Conservation Zones being proposed in the Marine Conservation Zones being proposed in the Marine Bill, SACs and Special Protection Areas.

The deadline for responses is March 13, 2008.

(KMcA)


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