The photo shows rare bird Manx shearwaters. (Photo courtesy of Ed Marshall/WelshWildlife.org)
LONDON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- A 1,700-square-kilometer extension to marine Special Protection Areas around Britain's coasts was announced Sunday by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Nearly 150,000 rare seabirds, including the iconic little tern and black-throated diver, will be better protected by the extended "Blue Belt" marine protected areas, government Environment Minister Therese Coffey announced.
A newly-classified marine Special Protection Area (SPA) will come into force along a 24 mile stretch of coast from Falmouth Bay to St. Austell Bay in Cornwall.
The area, equivalent to almost 55,000 football pitches, is Britain's most important site for the wintering black throated diver. The new protection will help to minimize disturbance to the feeding areas and marine habitats the birds rely on, providing a safe haven where they can spend the winter, said Defra.
A further marine SPA has been announced in the Irish Sea between the Isle of Man and Anglesey, home to over 12,000 Manx shearwaters. At the same time, four other sites have been extended around Britain, ranging from Liverpool Bay in the north-west of England, Poole Harbor on the south coast, and the Outer Thames Estuary near London.
Marine SPAs are sites given special status to protect populations of rare, vulnerable and migratory birds. These latest designations will help to safeguard the feeding grounds of over one quarter of the UK's breeding population of little terns.
Coffey said: "The UK is already a world leader in marine conservation, with over 23 percent of our waters protected, and these new sites will help to strengthen our Blue Belt and give rare seabirds like the little tern a brighter future."
Natural England chairman Andrew Sells said: "These Special Protection Areas will provide havens for nearly 150,000 birds that breed on our shores in summer or flock there in autumn and winter, helping them to thrive into the future."
Defra said the sites include the first SPA for wintering black-throated diver, great northern diver and Eurasian spoonbill, and the first offshore SPA to protect the feeding grounds of Manx shearwater.
The sites form part of a government ongoing commitment to create a "Blue Belt" of protected areas around the UK's coast, with over 23 percent of British waters already protected with more than 300 sites.