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More protection planned for Scilly seabirds

Natural England has invited views on its plans to extend the Isles of Scilly’s Special Protection Area (SPA) by almost 13,000 hectares.

The current SPA supports over 8,000 pairs of 13 different seabird species – including the European storm petrel and lesser black-backed gull - and is one of only two places in England where Manx shearwaters breed.

Natural England, which is the government's adviser for the natural environment, said Scilly has a greater diversity of breeding seabirds than anywhere else in England and an extension of its SPA will help maintain healthy and productive breeding colonies for generations to come.

The public consultation will run from today (February 26th) until May 21st.

Natural England said in a statement: "The extended boundary now recognises the importance of additional species for the first time, including the European shag and great black-backed gull, and includes not only seabird nesting sites but also nearby sea areas used for feeding, resting, preening and other social interactions."

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "Our coastline is home to some of the most magnificent wildlife in the world and we are proud to be a world leader in protecting our marine environment.

"It is suggested that these new protections will provide thousands of birds on the Isles of Scilly with a safe haven for foraging and feeding, safeguarding precious marine habitats for future generations. I welcome the consultation and encourage local residents to give their views."

Interim Chief Executive of Natural England Marian Spain said: "Extending the Isles of Scilly Special Protection Area would bring huge benefits for some of our most important seabird colonies.

"We look forward to hearing what people think and, hopefully working with everybody who lives, works in and visits the Scillies to make these plans become a reality and make this coastline a key addition to the UK’s marine protection network."

Special Protection Areas are sites designated to protect populations of rare and vulnerable seabirds from human activity while minimising disturbance to birds’ open water feeding areas. There are already 47 such sites designated in English waters.

The consultation details can be found at DEFRA's website with responses invited online, by email or by post.

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