1. ITV Report

Calls to increase protection for seabirds on the Isles of Scilly

Puffins are among the most popular sights for visitors to the Isles of Scilly. Credit: PA

Seabirds on the Isles of Scilly may soon get extra protection as Natural England considers extending its special protection zone further into the sea.

"The Isles of Scilly is actually one of the most important areas for seabirds in England. It has the widest diversity of species so we've got about 8,000 breeding pairs of about 13 different species. So we've got a bit of everything here".

– Vickie Heaney, Bird ecologist, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Vickie Heaney says the birds are a huge draw to the islands. A survey by theIsles of Scilly Wildlife Trustin 2017 found 70% of visitors said the natural environment was a key reason why they came to the area.

The Shag is one of 13 species of seabird that can be seen on the Isles of Scilly. Credit: PA

How important are the Isles of Scilly for seabirds?

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust says the islands are regionally, nationally and internationally important for breeding seabirds both in terms of number of birds and diversity of species. They have:

  • Over 8,000 pairs of 13 species of breeding seabird supported: Manx shearwater, Fulmar, Storm petrel, Shag, Cormorant, Great black-backed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Herring gull, Kittiwake, Common tern, Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot
  • Breeding seabirds distributed across 50+ sites throughout the archipelago
  • Internationally important numbers of Lesser black-backed gull and Storm petrel
  • Nationally important numbers of Great black-backed gull and Shag
  • Regionally important numbers of Puffin, Razorbill, Manx shearwater, Fulmar and Common tern
  • One of only two sites in England where Manx shearwater and Storm petrel are currently known to breed (the other is Lundy)
  • Watch "Scilly Seabirds"

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The current Special Protection Area for the Isle of Scilly gives the breeding bird species protection while on land. Now Natural England is proposing extending it into the marine environment. The 13,000 hectare extension will ensure the seabirds are also protected while feeding, preening, resting and socialising at sea. It will also benefit other marine life.

Natural England wants to extend protection for seabirds into the sea off the Isles of Scilly as well as on land. Credit: ITV West Country

Seabirds are facing many threats now and the bigger ones like climate change and food shortages are not really things we can tackle on a site level. But if we can protect the areas where the seabirds go every year to breed - if we can really keep these places special for them - then that gives them room to grow and to thrive into the future and it will help them built resilience to face all these threats that they've got at the moment.

– Kate Sugar, Natural England

A formal consultation on the move runs until 21 May.