Britain has been threatened with legal action in the European Union courts after failing to protect harbour porpoises, one of the smallest marine mammals.
Janez Potocnik, the European environment commissioner, has given the Government two months to step up a protection programme for the porpoise, which is threatened by offshore wind farms.
“Surveys show that the vast majority of people want nature to be protected. We have agreed to do that both within the EU and internationally. It’s time to stop talking about it and actually do it,” he said.
The commission has complained that Britain is not honouring legal obligations on the conservation of natural habitats.
“Despite a large number of harbour porpoise in its waters, the UK has so far proposed only one small site in Northern Ireland, exposing some of the identified sites to the risk of offshore wind farm development,” said commission officials.
“The commission has repeatedly urged the UK to fulfil its key obligations for this species, but no further designations of sites have been proposed.”
According to EU data there are an estimated 330,000 to 340,000 harbour porpoises in UK waters.
An EU investigation identified 10 sites where there is sufficient evidence to take protection measures.
“Other member states hosting the species have now proposed sites and the UK is still failing in its obligations despite its pivotal role for this species,” said an official.
Unless Britain satisfies the commission within two months, the Government could face penalties, including large fines, in the European Court of Justice.
British officials declines to comment.
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