Project urged to protect vulnerable birds
SEABIRD populations ‘in freefall’ could be protected by new Special Protection Areas around the Hebrides, according to a consultation launched on July 4.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is planning 10 new Special Protection Areas (SPAs) spread along Scotland’s 11,800km coastline, from around Gigha, Coll, Tiree, Rum and the Outer Hebrides, up to Orkney and Shetland, and then down to the Moray Firth and Ythan Estuary.
The proposals are designed to help many marine bird species by pro- tecting their foraging and roosting grounds.
Species set to benefit include sandwich terns and little terns, black-throated, great northern and red-throated divers, Slavonian grebe, velvet scoter, red-breasted merganser and European shag.
The consultation gives people the opportunity to share their views on each of the proposed designations, on topics such as the featured bird species, the scientific evidence and options for site management.
Andrew Bachell, Scottish Natural Heritage’s director of policy and advice, said: ‘Scotland is an incredibly important place in the world for marine birds.
‘Our seas and marine birds are a unique and exciting part of nature and attract many thousands of people to visit Scotland every year.
‘ We want to protect these areas to help the marine birds, and to ensure that they are safeguarded for the benefit of generations to come.’
The RSPB welcomed the news, but called for more protection areas.
Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy at RSPB Scotland, said: ‘These sites, if well managed, will help improve the prospects of some of the world’s most rare and vulnerable marine birds.
‘However, it’s troubling that five sites in draft plans are missing from the consultation.
‘Cross-border and offshore protected areas in the Solway Firth, the Firth of Forth, Pentland Firth and the seas off the remote islands of St Kilda and Foula all appear to be in limbo until agreement is received from the UK government.
‘With many Scottish seabird populations in freefall we urge UK ministers to give the green light right away so effective conservation action can finally be put in place.’
The consultation will run for 12 weeks until September 26.
For detailed information about each of the proposals, and to respond to the consultation, visit the SNH website –www.snh.gov.uk/marinebirdSPAs.