The WWF in the UK has called on the government to take swift action to establish further marine protected areas to help dolphins.
The conservation charity made its comments following new European legislation that allows for the designation of areas of ‘key natural value’.
The network of sites, known as Natura 2000, can include areas of land or water. The first offshore site has just been unveiled.
Marine Special Areas of Conservation, as they are also known, are set up to protect natural phenomena such as reefs, lagoons or intertidal areas. Innovative conservation methods are employed to ensure that such areas are not over-fished, or polluted by shipping traffic or waste disposal, and so provide places where dolphins can thrive.
But WWF believe the measure is far from adequate. Without strengthening and expansion, it will serve only to hasten the destruction of Britain's marine wildlife, they say. WWF’s main concern is that the sites selected do not represent the full breadth of biodiversity in UK waters, so that many other precious sites will continue be exposed to over-fishing and oil development. Currently, only 1% of EU oceans are protected by law. WWF would like to see this percentage massively increased.
Natasha Barker, Senior Marine Policy Officer for WWF UK, said: “The UK’s proposals are but a drop in the ocean and are insufficient to fully protect our seas and the rich biodiversity they support. We need the UK Government to fulfil its duty to create a network of marine protected areas, otherwise many marine species and habitats will remain at risk. Further sites are needed to contribute to the Natura 2000 network but we also need the UK Marine and Coastal Access Bill to be strong enough to fill any gaps and ensure a healthy marine environment. WWF is calling for an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas which represents the full range of biodiversity in UK waters.”
One of the creatures that is particularly at risk is the dolphin – an animal WWF has long worked to protect. WWF have asked that breeding grounds in Scotland and England be added to the list of the UK’s Natura 2000 sites. This will help to ensure the strength of bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise populations.
If you would like to support the work of WWF, you can help by adopting a dolphin. This can be done for as little as £3 a month. In return you will receive:
• A soft toy of your selected animal
• A certificate
• A print of your animal
• A greetings card