Covering an area equivalent to more than 120,000 football pitches, this part of the North Sea.is the most important site in the UK for Arctic, common and roseate terns, the second most important site for sandwich tern and the third most important site for Atlantic puffin.
According to Natural England, this designation “will help ensure any disturbance to the birds’ essential open water feeding areas is minimised, so the birds have a safe space to feed in”
It builds on the protection already afforded to important breeding sites via the network of SPAs at Coquet Island, Farne Islands and Lindisfarne
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey enthused: “We already have one of the strongest track records in the world when it comes to looking after our precious marine environment, and this decision will strengthen our bluebelt of protected areas while helping seabirds across the country thrive."
Agreed Natural England’s chairman, Andrew Sells: “This is a momentous day for a huge number of our most charismatic seabirds, many of which have suffered population declines over recent decades.
Meanwhile, Chris Corrigan, of the RSPB, commented: “This is fantastic, and we hope to see more designations in the very near future.
“As the UK moves closer to leaving the EU, we urge the Government to continue to recognise the significance of protecting such sites.”
The move was opposed by port user groups who are now seeking clarification on how, if at all, their activities might be affected. Wind farm operator EDF has also sounded a note of caution.
The Northumberland Marine SPA ranks:
- Top for Arctic tern (9,564 individuals), common tern (2,572) and roseate tern (160)
- Second for Sandwich tern (4,324 individuals)
- Third for Atlantic puffin (108,484 individuals)
- Fourth for common guillemot (65,751 individuals)
- Eleventh for little tern (90 individuals)
* Photo of roseate terns by Alcides Morales via Wikipedia