Project urged to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble birds

The Oban Times - - NEWS - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­times.co.uk

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.

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