RSPB Calls for Bird Protection at Offshore Wind Farm Sites
Scotland’s struggling seabird populations are in need of urgent action to halt significant, long-term declines, according to a new report by RSPB Scotland.
The wildlife conservation charity is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently address the fundamental lack of protection for seabirds at sea. The report proposes an initial 7 key sites to be designated as Special Protection Areas (SPA) for seabirds as a first step toward safeguarding important feeding areas and reducing the potential impact of damaging developments at sea.
RSPB Scotland is warning that the Scottish Government, as well as other UK governments, risks failing to meet its obligations under Scottish and European legislation if it does not take action now to conserve important seabird populations. The proposed SPA sites include sandbanks located off the Firth of Forth, an area of the Pentland Firth and the sea north of St Kilda.
The recommended areas were first identified by the government’s statutory advisors, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) in 2012 and are considered vital feeding areas used by many tens of thousands of seabirds. RSPB Scotland will put forward a second set of recommended SPA sites in the coming months that, along with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), are necessary for building an ecologically coherent network of protected areas for seabirds, as required by many international conventions to which the Scottish Government is a signatory.
Although the Government has already designated 33 SPA colony extension sites, most of the critical areas where seabirds feed at sea remain unprotected and, as the seas become busier with proposed developments, guidance on sensitive areas is urgently needed.
Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “Scotland has a fantastic opportunity to show the world that we value our wildlife and natural environment. Unfortunately this is not the case when it comes to our iconic seabirds, species for which Scotland in particular has a special responsibility to protect. We are calling on the Scottish Government to designate these 7 areas as a first step to creating the full network needed to fulfil the requirements of EU and Scottish legislation. With numerous proposed windfarm developments ‘queuing up’ in the areas that overlap key feeding sites for birds, we cannot wait any longer. The best feeding sites for seabirds must be given the protection the Government’s own scientists say they deserve. The time for action is now.”