Atlantic puffin

A section of Northumberland coastline supporting 200,000 seabirds gets greater protection.

The newly designated Northumberland Marine Special Protection Area (SPA) stretches 12 miles from the coastline into the North Sea, and covers an area of more than 120,000 football pitches.

It’s the most important site in the UK for Arctic, common and roseate terns, the second most important site for sandwich tern, and the third most important site for Atlantic puffin.

International designation will help ensure any disturbance to the birds’ essential open water feeding areas is minimised, so the birds have a safe space to feed in.

It builds on the protection already afforded to important breeding sites via the network of SPAs at Coquet Island, Farne Islands, Lindisfarne and Northumbria Coast. Today’s designation will help to protect the full range of habitats needed by the birds.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

We already have one of the strongest track records in the world when it comes to looking after our precious marine environment, and today’s designations will strengthen our blue-belt of protected areas while helping seabirds across the country thrive.

Andrew Sells, Natural England’s Chairman said:

This is a momentous day for a huge number of our best-loved and most charismatic seabirds, many of which have suffered population declines over recent decades.

These designations will protect vital feeding areas for seabirds along the English coast, creating safe havens to help the birds thrive for generations to come.

Chris Corrigan, Director, RSPB England said:

It is fantastic to see these special places being recognised and given the protection they so need and we hope to see more designations in the very near future.

As the UK moves closer to leaving the EU, we urge the government to continue to recognise the significance of protecting these sites, based on scientific evidence, and they continue to protect and manage these sites to the same or even higher standards than those currently secured by European law for generations to come.

Along with the new Northumberland Marine SPA, Natural England also announced extensions to Hamford Water SPA in Essex and Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary SPA in Cumbria.

These designations add an area of more than 150,000 football pitches (450 square miles) to the existing Marine Protected Area network. This gives international protection to feeding habitats for over 425,000 seabirds for the first time.

Further information

As an important breeding site in the UK Northumberland Marine SPA ranks:

  • top for Arctic tern (9,564 individuals), common tern (2,572) and roseate tern (160)
  • 2nd for Sandwich tern (43,24 individuals)
  • 3rd for Atlantic puffin (108,484 individuals)
  • 4th for common guillemot (65,751 individuals)
  • 11th for little tern (90 individuals)

Arctic terns make the longest annual migration of any bird species in the world – an average of 44,000 miles each year.

The new Northumberland Marine SPA covers a 41 mile stretch between Scremertson and Blyth.

The most important site for breeding seabirds in the UK is at Flamborough, along the Yorkshire coast.