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Protection of seabird colonies

Is the Scottish Government being deliberately misleading when it says Scotland's new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), to be announced next month, will save seabirds?

("Move to protect sandeel with limit on fishing", The Herald, November 24).

We hope not but, RSPB Scotland and our supporters are expecting the list of MPAs to offer little for seabirds, given that, as a group of species, they have been marginalised in site selection. We hope this will be corrected.

New MPAs protecting sandeels from industrial fishing are welcome. An area from north-east Scotland to Northumberland has been closed since 2000. This closure and restrictions to local sandeel fisheries are championed by RSPB but these measures cannot prevent other development pressures on sandeel grounds. We look forward to the Firth of Forth appearing at the top of the list of MPAs to protect sandeels as this is one of the most important breeding areas in the North Sea and vital for seabird colonies.

Scientists are concerned about the decline in seabirds and our research shows how this could have devastating impacts on the economies of rural areas which rely on wildlife tourism. Protecting seabirds and supporting communities requires MPAs designated for seabirds.

Lloyd Austin, Head of Conservation Policy, RSPB Scotland, 2 Lochside View, Edinburgh.

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