Natural England
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Formal consultation starts on proposed European marine sites

A formal consultation on 12 proposed new marine conservation sites starts today (27 Nov 2009). The sites are being put forward as the latest additions to the ‘Natura 2000’ network of European protected areas designed to protect important habitats, species and birds.

The 12 proposed new sites consist of 10 possible Special Areas of Conservation (pSACs) and two potential Special Protection Areas (pSPAs) which incorporate a range of important habitats and species - from the sandbanks of the Outer Wash and southern North Sea to areas in the Irish Sea that are important for birds, and to the cold water coral reefs off north-west Scotland.

Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Countryside Council for Wales are asking consultees to comment on the scientific reasons for proposing the sites, and on the assessment of the likely impacts of the site designation on marine industries such as fishing, recreation, sand and gravel extraction, windfarms and the oil and gas industry.

If approved, the new sites would treble the existing marine areas within the SAC/SPA designation in England.

Dr. Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: “The Natura 2000 network of marine protected areas is a vital way of ensuring that our most important marine habitats and bird species are effectively protected. The consultation on the proposed new sites will create significant opportunities to promote understanding of our precious marine undersea landscapes, to share information to help refine the evidence for the proposed sites, and to work together with all users of the marine environment to develop future management measures.”

Marcus Yeo, Managing Director of JNCC, said: “This consultation process gives us the chance to ensure that all relevant information has been considered in our recommendations. This will help these sites to be recognised as ones that fully deserve their high profile and consequent protection.”

UK Fisheries Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, said: “The sites to be consulted on have been identified to protect habitats and species of national and European importance. In conjunction with Marine Conservation Zones, established under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, these sites will contribute to delivering an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. Feedback is important and will help shape our final proposals to the European Commission in 2010.”

Following this formal consultation process, site proposals will be submitted to Government, and Ministers will decide which site recommendations to submit to the European Commission in August 2010.

How to get involved

  • All information on the English and joint sites, including proposed boundary maps, can be found on Natural England’s web site.

    To comment formally on the proposals for the English and joint sites, write to:

    Formal comments on the proposals for Liverpool Bay/Bae Lerpwl pSPA may also be sent in Welsh or English to the Countryside Council for Wales at:

  • All information on the two fully offshore sites (Bassurelle Sandbank and North-West Rockall Bank) can be found on JNCC’s web site.

    To comment formally on the proposal for the two fully offshore sites, write to:

    The consultation runs for three months from 27 November 2009 to 26 February 2010.

Notes to editors:

1. The possible SACs being consulted upon are:

  • Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge (joint English/offshore site for sandbank and reef)

  • Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton (joint English/offshore site for sandbank)

  • Margate and Long Sands (English site for sandbank)

  • Bassurelle Sandbank (offshore site for sandbank)

  • Poole Bay to Lyme Bay (English site for reef and sea caves )

  • Prawle Point to Plymouth Sound and Eddystone (English site for reef )

  • Lizard Point (English site for reef )

  • Lands End and Cape Bank (English site for reef)

  • Shell Flat and Lune Deep (English site for sandbank and reef)

  • North-West Rockall Bank (offshore site for reef)

The potential SPAs being consulted upon are:

  • Outer Thames (joint English/offshore site for red throated diver)

  • Liverpool Bay (joint English/Welsh site for red throated diver and common scoter)

2. Natura 2000 is the name for all European terrestrial and marine sites which are designated under European legislation. This legislation includes the Birds Directive (1979) and the Habitats Directive (1992), both of which are implemented in the UK under the Habitats Regulations (1994) on land and in the sea out to 12 nautical miles and the Offshore Regulations (2007) for the UK’s offshore marine area (from 12 nautical miles, within British Fishery Limits and the seabed within the UK Continental Shelf Designated Area). There are currently 81 SACs with marine components and 73 SPAs with marine components in the UK which cover 1.76 million hectares.

3. Undersea habitats that would benefit from protection under the proposed new designations are sandbanks, reefs and sea caves. Sandbanks act as nursery grounds for many commercial fish species such as plaice and sole whilst also supporting sand eel communities that are a food source for seabirds, porpoises and seals. In contrast reefs support a colourful array of sponges, sea squirts and corals that provide shelter for crabs, lobsters and fish such as the multi-coloured cuckoo wrasse.

4. UK inshore waters lie from the coastline to 12 nautical miles. Each of the country agencies (Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside) is responsible implementing the Habitats and Birds Directives for inshore waters. The UK offshore area lies between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the coast and out to the Continental Shelf designated area. JNCC is responsible for the implementation of the EC Habitats and Birds Directives in this sea area. Where sites overlap, the agencies work together.

5. As the Government’s statutory advisers, Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) have been working together to identify important or threatened examples of marine habitats and species in inshore and offshore waters, and to map the boundaries of the sites that are proposed for special protection.

6. Natural England was established in 2006, and is the government’s independent advisor on the natural environment. All information on the English and joint sites, including proposed boundary maps, can be found on the Natural England website.

7. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation on behalf of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems. All information on the two fully offshore sites (Bassurelle Sandbank and North-West Rockall Bank) can be found on JNCC’s web site.

8. The Countryside Council for Wales is an Assembly Government Sponsored Body, working for a better Wales where everyone values and cares for our natural environment. More information about its work is available on the CCW website.

9. Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs): MCZs are a new national designation as proposed in the new Marine and Coastal Access Act. MCZs will be designated to protect nationally important and representative habitats and species and, together with the Natura 2000 sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Ramsar sites and new national MPAs in Scotland and Northern Ireland will create the UK MPA network. MCZs in English inshore and English, Welsh and Northern Irish offshore waters will be identified through a different process to the Natura 2000 sites. Recommendations are proposed to be made to Government by October 2011. More information about the MCZ Project can be found on Natural England’s web site.

10. Scottish MPA Project: Under the UK Marine Act the Scottish Government will gain executive devolution of marine nature conservation and marine planning functions in offshore waters adjacent to Scotland. The identification, selection and designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in offshore waters adjacent to Scotland will be led by Marine Scotland in partnership with JNCC. This Scottish MPA project will facilitate a science based process with integral stakeholder engagement to develop recommendations on the MPAs required to complete the MPA network in offshore waters adjacent to Scotland.

11. Interviews and photos are available on request from Natural England’s and JNCC’s press offices:

Natural England:
For English inshore waters Michelle Hawkins, press officer, Natural England T: 0300 060 1109 M: 07775 585935 E:

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC):
For UK offshore waters Communications Team, JNCC T: 01733 866 839 E:, W:

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