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Protecting UK Seas

UK - Fifteen new Marine Protected Areas have been created to protect important habitats and species.

The UK Government has submitted the sites to the European Commission to be included within the European ‘Natura 2000’ network of protected areas.

The sites, which were selected on the basis of the best scientific evidence available, have undergone a rigorous and transparent assessment and will bring protection to habitats including reefs, sea caves and sandbanks, where marine life thrives. 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 and mammals such as seals. 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. Birds will also benefit, with sites selected for the conservation of the red-throated diver and common scoter.

Marine Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said: “Our seas are home to some of the most diverse species and habitats in the world and they need just as much protection as our land. Today is a major step forward in helping us to achieve clean, healthy and vibrant seas where marine life can thrive.

Working hand-in-hand with the creation of Marine Conservation Zones, created under the groundbreaking Marine and Coastal Access Act, these sites will make a major contribution to the delivery of an ecological network of Marine Protected Areas by 2012.”

Two consultations also started for sites at the Dogger Bank in the North Sea and proposed new boundaries for Lune Deep and Prawle Point to Start Point. The Dogger Bank is not only an important sandbank habitat but is also a key area for the UK meeting its renewable energy target by 2020. The identification of the Dogger Bank as both a conservation site and an area for windfarm development illustrates the compatibility that can exist between energy development and nature conservation. The consultations will close on 12th November 2010.

the Fish Site Editor

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