The government has announced the expansion of a sanctuary in the Isles of Scilly, home to some of our rarest seabirds, such as the Manx shearwater and petrel.
This decision is based on extensive work by Natural England with a comprehensive package of over 4 years of scientific advice and research on the new frontiers and a public consultation that took place in Spring 2019.
The Isles of Scilly are home to a greater variety of seabirds than any other location in England, with internationally significant populations of petrels and fewer black-backed gulls. The expansion will increase the area by around 12,930 hectares and benefit 15,000 sea birds. It is one of only two protected areas in England where Manx shearwaters and European petrels breed, and it is also home to the UK’s largest population of large black-backed gulls.
Our seabird populations are an important barometer of the health of the marine environment. This expansion of the sea to the Isles of Scilly shows the UK Government’s commitment to the sustainable use of our seas.
Manx Shearwater, Isles of Scilly, Copyright Richard Stonier, from the Surfbirds Galleries
With the expansion of the Isles of Scilly territory to include the territorial seas around the archipelago, there are now 114 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) specifically designed to protect birds across the UK. The newly expanded grounds protect the waters around the islands from activities such as feeding and cleaning, which are critical to the life cycle of over 15,000 seabirds.
Environment Secretary Rebecca Pow said: The UK seabird population is of global concern as the UK holds more than a quarter of the seabirds breeding in Europe. The expansion of this website shows our ongoing commitment to protecting and improving the resilience of our marine environment and valuable wildlife. Along with developing our seabird conservation strategy, we will help the coastal environment recover and thrive for future generations.
Kate Sugar, Marine Lead Adviser at Natural England said: The Isles of Scilly are one of the most important areas for seabird breeding in England and their continued presence is important to the sense of place of the local community and visitors. These coastal waters are as important to the protection of breeding seabirds as the nesting sites themselves. Natural England’s public consultation on the proposals for this website allowed the local community to understand the evidence gathered, the meaning and implications of the naming. Today’s announcement ensures better protection for thousands of seabirds and is a positive step forward as we continue to protect and improve the British Sea and shorebirds.
The expansion of the site will help encourage the population growth and recovery of the European petrel and small black-backed gull, in addition to providing new protection for the European shaggy and large black-backed gull.
This MPA is part of the UK’s “Blue Belt”, which is helping to increase resilience to man-made pressures and creating space to help species adapt to the effects of climate change.
There are currently a total of 358 MPAs across the UK. Regulators such as the Marine Management Organization and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) are responsible for managing the MPAs to protect their species and habitats, and work with local fishing communities and other organizations.