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RSPB Scotland welcomes seabird safe havens, but questions why Orkney sites are missing - RSPB

Puffins, terns, eiders and long-tailed ducks are among the wildlife that stands to get a boost from legal protection announced today

The long-awaited declaration of ‘Special Protection Areas’ (SPAs) will safeguard some of the places that hundreds of thousands of birds rely on for food and shelter in Scotland’s seas.

The announcement comes after extensive scientific scrutiny and consultation where the proposals received wide public support. However, RSPB Scotland has raised concerns over proposed areas in Orkney that are missing from the Scottish Government’s statement despite meeting the criteria for selection.

The Firth of Forth, and the seas around the remote islands of St Kilda and Foula are among the special areas of Scotland’s coast and seas selected for supporting internationally significant numbers of birds. However, Scapa Flow and the waters north of Orkney Mainland both recommended on the basis of scientific evidence as hotspots for wintering seaducks, divers and grebes have been held back.

The Scottish Government is required by law to select the most important places for birds on land and sea for special protection. Until now only breeding colonies on land and the coastal waters near them had been given the SPA status. Today’s announcement is the first time in Scotland that areas known to be important for birds searching for food have received this type of protection. The new legal status means that any future development and activity capable of damaging the areas must now be strictly controlled.

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