Allonby Bay shortlisted for 'strongest ever' marine protection measure

Honeycomb worm reef at Allonby Bay, one of five sites shortlisted as a proposed Highly Protected Marine Area. Credit: NWIFCA

Allonby Bay is one of five sites that has been shortlisted as a Highly Protected Marine Area (HMPA), said to be the strongest ever sea protection measure.

Allonby Bay hugs the coast into the Solway Firth and includes two important areas for marine life, Dubmill Scar and Maryport Roads.

The area is highly diverse containing many different species of sponge, soft coral, seaweed, sea squirt, anemone and the reef-building honeycomb worms which is at its most northern extent. Allonby Bay was designated a Marine Conservation Zone in 2016.

Honeycomb worm Credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Highly Protected Marine Areas

The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for HPMAs for three years, with the support of more than 10,000 people for greater protection of marine life.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust say the new new designation will ban all damaging activities within their boundaries. By safeguarding all wildlife and habitats, it hopes HPMAs will give nature the best chance to recover, benefitting not only each place but large parts of the sea around them.

Georgia de Jong Cleyndert, Senior Marine Conservation Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts said: “It is absolutely fantastic news that Allonby Bay is proposed as one of five of the first UK sites to be designated an HPMA, offering the highest level of protection in England’s seas.

"The site contains large areas of blue mussels and the best example of honeycomb worm reefs in the UK, which provide habitat for a wealth of different species. 

"Subtidal sands and gravel habitats in the area are important spawning and nursery grounds for plaice, skate and thornback rays, and it is a pupping ground for harbour porpoise."

Allonby Credit: PA

Following the announcement, there will be a 12 week consultation (until 28 September) on the proposed locations.

The trust believes that HPMAs will also act as a natural solution to help store carbon and tackle climate change, as well as generating benefits through tourism, recreation and marine education.

Georgia continued: "Our seas are under pressure like never before; decades of over exploitation, pollution and unchecked development have resulted in continued biodiversity loss and a degradation of the marine habitats."