Internationally important seabird colonies on the Northumberland coast and on the Farne Islands and Coquet Island have received extra protection through the designation of the Northumberland Marine Special Protection Area (SPA).
The SPA, which is designated under the EU Wild Birds Directive, covers 885 km2 of sea stretching from just south of Blyth northwards to Scremerston, near Berwick and has been designated to protect the foraging habitat of five species of tern as well as guillemot and the ever-popular puffin. Among them is the arctic tern, whose extraordinary migration takes them from the coasts of Northern Europe to Antarctica and back every year, a round trip of over 80,000km.
This is an incredibly important area for breeding seabirds; for example 93% of the roseate terns, 20% of the sandwich terns and 13% of the common terns occurring in Great Britain breed in colonies on the Farne Islands and Coquet Island. While the breeding colonies of these beautiful birds have been strictly protected for some time, the waters that they depend on for their food have not. Designation of the SPA will ensure that activities being carried out in this area can be carefully assessed, to ensure that they are undertaken in ways that do not harm the populations of sand eel and other species that these birds depend on.