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Nature / More special protection areas for isles

Foula. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THREE new special protection areas aimed at supporting species of birds have been designated for Shetland.

They are the seas off Foula, Bluemull and Colgrave Sounds and the East Mainland coast.

Special protection areas (SPAs) are selected to protect one or more rare, threatened or vulnerable bird species, and regularly occurring migratory species.

Shetland already has a number of SPAs in place, including in Fair Isle, Fetlar, Noss, Mousa and Spiggie.

The Scottish Government announced on Thursday that 12 new special protection areas were coming into force across the country.

It is the first time in Scotland that areas known to be important for birds searching for food have received this type of protection.

The government also confirmed that four new nature conservation marine protection areas (MPAs) in Scotland had been designated.

The commitment to bring forward the designation of four MPAs was made in the 2018/19 budget deal between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government.

RSPB Scotland welcomed the extra 12 SPAs, but it said it was disappointed Orkney was not included.

Head of marine policy Alex Kinninmonth said: “We certainly welcome the protected areas declared today but any joy is tempered by what is missing in Orkney.

“We are requesting urgent clarity from the minister on her intentions, as we are at a loss to understand why after receiving robust scientific advice from her nature advisors supporting the sites, she has chosen to add yet further delay and uncertainty.

“We are in the midst of a global climate and nature emergency that requires urgent changes to how we manage our land and ocean, so we’re under no illusion that these sites alone will reverse the fortunes for Scotland’s seabirds.

“It’s only through sustained investment and enforced management plans that they will become a cornerstone of efforts to revive our coasts and seas.

“The sight and sound of hundreds of thousands of seabirds flocking to our shores every year is an amazing natural spectacle that must be protected for future generations to experience.”