The new Marine Protected Areas are the first offshore habitats in the UK to gain protection under EU laws.
The sites were chosen because they all contain rare species that are in danger of going extinct.
The most well known are reefs off Lizard Point and Land’s End in Cornwall where there is a colourful array of sponges, sea squirts and corals. Trawling will not be allowed in the area and fishing will be limited to protect rare species such as the multicoloured cuckoo wrasse.
Margate and Long Sands in Kent, Red Bay in Northern Ireland and North Norfolk sand banks 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.
The seas around Lyme Bay and Torbay contain sea caves where a diverse community of animals live including sponges, anemones, soft corals and sea squids.
The outer Thames Estuary and Liverpool Bay are now protected areas because of the red throated diver.
More remote areas like North-West Rockall Bank and Wyville Thomson Ridge off Scotland are also important sand banks that may one day be developed for offshore wind.
Richard Benyon, the minister for the marine environment, said the new protected areas will be like national parks at sea where any development or human intervention is restricted if it harms certain species of wildlife.
“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.”
Melissa Moore, of the Marine Conservation Society, said the status of the protected areas must be taken seriously.
“Government must ensure such sites have strong conservation objectives of recovery where damaging fishing and extractive industries are halted, otherwise they will just be ‘paper parks’. It has taken sixteen years since the EU Habitats & Species Directive came into force in 1994 to designate these sites, so let’s now make the wait worthwhile for marine wildlife.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding