Two new sites awarded special protected marine area status

The move is designed to give extra security to vulnerable seabirds in Orkney.

Sites in Orkney and Scapa Flow awarded special protected marine area status Supplied

Eider ducks, long-tailed ducks, great northern divers, and Slavonian grebes will be among a range of animals to be safeguarded under protected marine areas.

Two sites in Orkney have been named as marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which is designed to give extra security to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable marine species and habitats.

Scapa Flow and North Orkney have been awarded the special status, after originally getting left of a list of new SPAs after the council challenged the scientific evidence.

Following negotiations between the local authority and Scottish government, the sites were recognised as important areas for rare migrating birds, in a move which RSPB Scotland has said is the right decision.

Sarah Sankey, Orkney area manager at RSPB Scotland, said: “The importance of Orkney for seabirds and wintering divers, seaducks and grebes is indisputable not only for their conservation but also for the economy of the islands with the spectacle of breeding and wintering seabirds drawing tourists to Orkney to view wildlife.”

Environment and land reform minister Mairi McAllan said: “Designations such as these ensure some of the most vulnerable seabird species and their habitats are afforded the protection they need not just for today but for future generations.

“This marks the culmination of a great deal of work and I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts, for the designations in Orkney, which largely completes Scotland’s SPA network.”

Leader of Orkney Islands Council, James Stockan said: “This has undoubtedly been a long-running process  – but one which provides a great example of the value of robust negotiation and constructive discussion between the Scottish Government and Orkney Islands Council.

“Having challenged the initial proposals, we worked alongside Government officials to reach a mutually agreeable solution that was more in keeping with Orkney’s needs.

“We believe that the designations are now more accurate and achieve a dual purpose of supporting future development of our vital maritime industries, whilst also protecting our local ecosystems.”

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