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New Haven for Seabirds in Cornwall

The latest IUCN red list brought bad news for the world’s seabirds. Several species joined the list as climate change and commercial fishing continue to impact the birds. The black-legged Kittiwake and Cape Gannet have moved closer to extinction and many of our treasured birds are now endangered. But amidst the worrying headlines in 2017, a little good news has emerged.

Conservation and Recovery

Conservation efforts have seen the numbers of some species rise and that trend looks set to continue with the establishment of a marine special protected area (SPA) in Cornwall. Little terns and black-throated divers are among the seabirds which will enjoy greater protection. The new designated area stretches for 24 miles between Falmouth Bay and St Austell Bay and is home to more than 150,000 rare seabirds.

Avian Visitors to Cornwall

In addition to the native species, Cornwall receives many migrating visitors including great northern divers and Eurasian spoonbills. These birds are amber-listed by conservation groups because their numbers have fallen significantly in recent years and their ranges have been reduced.

The Cornwall SPA

The new SPA covers a vast area and has been established to minimise the disturbance to the birds which feed in the region. Many birds also use the Cornish coast as a safe haven during the winter months. It is a wonderful place for bird-watchers to view rare species which have been blown off course or which are making unscheduled pit-stops to rest.

23% of British waters were already protected under the UK Blue Belt programme which includes more than 300 sites across the country. But the new SPA is an important addition. Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said that the BBC series Blue Planet II has proved to be a key influence in the efforts to expand the nation’s conservation areas.

The Great Northern Diver

The increased protection for marine wildlife in Cornwall was in part inspired by the need to support the great northern diver, a distinctive coastal bird which visits the UK in winter. Roughly 2,500 of these birds arrive every year, most heading for Scotland. But a small population visits Cornwall to dive for fish and shellfish.

Further Conservation Efforts

The Cornish protected area will be followed by a further marine SPA in the Irish Sea between the Isle of Man and Anglesey. This region is home to the largest known population of Manx shearwaters. The bird takes its name from its method of flying which involves gliding on straight wings before banking or "shearing" over the water. The new SPA will help to protect up to 12,000
of the birds.

The Blue Belt is a hugely important aspect of protecting the UK’s wildlife and any expansions are welcome. Hopefully more species will thrive as result of the latest additions to the Blue Belt and future generations will be able to see and enjoy the majestic seabirds in their natural habitats.


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