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Natural England on Scilly to discuss seabird protection

Natural England is on the islands to talk about plans to extend the Isles of Scilly’s Special Protection Area (SPA) by almost 13,000 hectares.

There is a public drop-in session at St Martin's Island Hall today between 4pm and 7pm and at Tresco Community Hall tomorrow at the same time. Sessions took place on Bryher, St Mary's and St Agnes earlier this month.

Scilly's 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 the islands have 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.

Marine Lead Advisor Kate Sugar told This is Scilly News that the proposals are about protecting seabirds in the marine environment as well as on land.

She said: "I'm over here because we have a formal public consultation on our proposal to extend your SPA for seabirds. There's already a really good protection for seabirds here and there has been for many years but what we don't have at the minute is that boundary that goes out to sea so the protection is limited to the rocks and the islands. This would just extend that out to sea so they've got the protection off the nests as well.

"It's a public consultation so anyone is welcome to go online and look at the documents and respond. It's open for another month and it would be great to hear any views."

In terms of impact to tourism activities on the islands, she said: "We're not expecting any immediate impact, it's more about recognition of the importance of the area for seabirds and wildlife in general."

The public consultation began on February 26th and runs until May 21st. Details can be found at DEFRA's website with responses invited online, by email or by post.

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