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Friday, 8 March 2013

Defra refuse to give BLACK GUILLEMOTS their full rights

Read on.....and make your feelings known


Marine protection for the only breeding black guillemots in England

Walking along the Cumbrian coast at this time of year, the cliffs with their sheer drops can look wild and inhospitable; it is easy to think that nothing could exist here. But come spring 8 million seabirds will make the long trip home to their breeding grounds around the UK's coast; soon the cliffs will be alive with squabbling guillemots, groaning puffins and graceful fulmars.

At St Bees Head in Cumbria an additional treat is in store for visitors as these cliffs are home to the only breeding black guillemot population in England; if you are lucky, you might just catch them descending into their burrows with sandeels and butterfish in bills ready to feed their chicks.

St Bees is a fantastic example of how faithful seabirds are to the sites they use; some seabirds return back to the exact same nests every year.Thankfully the colony here is a nationally designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which means that seabird nest sites are protected from damaging human activities; however the areas that these birds use at sea are not.

It's a sad truth that this story is the same all around the UK - seabirds are currently protected when on land, but as soon as they leave the shore to hunt for food for themselves and their chicks, they face threats such as net entanglement and disturbance from offshore developments in unprotected waters.

I'd like to thank everyone who Stepped Up for Nature and signed the RSPB's Marine Pledge throughout 2011-12. At the moment less than 0.1% of the UK's waters are protected from all damaging activities and there is an urgent need for the development of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. In November 2011, thanks to your support, we were able to hand-in over 50,000 signatures to Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon and show the UK Government that people out there like you care about the marine environment including the fate of our seabirds.

But we must ask you now to take further action.

We were thrilled that in September 2011 it was agreed that BLACK GUILLEMOT should be a species for protection within the recommended Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). This MCZ would form part of a collection of 127 sites around English waters, for consultation in 2013.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched their public consultation on the designation of English MCZs in December 2012. We now know that Defra only intend to take up to 31 of the 127 sites forward for designation in 2013. What's more, black guillemot has not been taken forward as a species within the Cumbria Coast MCZ which means that they will continue to have no protection at their key feeding and loafing areas close to their nesting grounds. We are bitterly disappointed by these unambitious proposals.

What you can do to help:

Please join us in letting Defra know that that they need to reinstate BLACK GUILLEMOT (or Tystie as it is affectionately known) as a species for protection within the Cumbria Coast MCZ for designation in 2013. Furthermore, that they need to implement a well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas, including MCZs, which offers full protection for all our marine wildlife, including seabirds, without further delay. You can do this and encourage others to do the same by responding to Defra's English Marine Conservation Zones consultation.
You can submit your letter email to

mail to: or by writing to the address below:

MCZ Team

C/O Post Room, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR

The consultation closes on 31 March 2013.

Why not also add a personal flavour to your letter by describing why the Cumbrian coast is so special to you and why our marine environment needs protecting.