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'Blue belt' extended as two coastline areas get special marine protection

Words: Huw Morris
Falmouth Bay / iStock-178745339

The UK’s 'blue belt' of marine conservation is to be expanded with two coastline areas granted special protection, covering 150,000 rare seabirds.

A 24-mile stretch of the Cornish coastline from Falmouth Bay to St Austell Bay has become a marine special protected area (SPA). The coastline is the UK’s most important site for internationally important populations of black-throated divers, great northern divers and Slavonian grebes, which winter there.

A second SPA has been granted in the Irish Sea between the Isle of Man and Anglesey, home to more than 12,000 Manx shearwaters.

Four other sites have been extended around the UK, in Liverpool Bay, Poole Harbour, the Outer Thames Estuary and Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay.

Announcing the decision, environment minister Thérèse Coffey said BBC1’s Blue Planet II is a key influence in the ongoing drive to expand the “blue belt”.

Marine SPAs are sites given special status to protect populations of rare, vulnerable and migratory birds. The latest designations aim to safeguard the feeding grounds of more than a quarter of the UK’s breeding population of little terns and bring the UK’s total number of marine SPAs to 106.

Natural England chairman Andrew Sells said that extending the “blue belt” was vital to protecting UK wildlife and to helping it “thrive into the future”.

Image credit | iStock