New regulations to protect Britain’s seabirds come into force today but the special areas they are meant to protect have not been designated.
The Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations are designed to translate the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives into UK law and they extend the legal protection for sea birds from inshore waters out to the limit of the UK’s marine jurisdiction, 200 nautical miles offshore and the continental shelf.
The regulations give legal protection to our most important marine wildlife sites – Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for other species and habitats. However, 28 years after the introduction of the Birds Directive, the Government has not identified any sites for offshore SPAs. As a result, the new regulations will do nothing to protect seabirds for years to come.
Andrew Dodd, Head of Site Conservation Policy at the RSPB said, “Among other things, this means the Government must now identify, must designate, a complete network of protected areas for seabirds.
“Government’s estimated timetable for completing this work for birds varies from 2011 to 2017, dependent on resources. Even if this timescale were met, it would mean completion of the UK marine SPA network might take another 10 years - some 36 years after the Birds Directive came into force in the UK.”