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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Marine conservation plea issued
Solway coast
The Wildlife Trusts said the Solway would benefit from protection
A conservation group has called for the creation of a series of "marine reserves" where fishing and other human activities would be banned.

The Wildlife Trusts has cited 15 sites including the Solway Firth and Lamlash Bay at Arran.

It wants to see a bill introduced to give the highest level of protection to threatened species and habitats.

A Department of Environment spokesman said the government intended to publish a draft Marine Bill in early 2008.

The Wildlife Trusts said the current 100 marine protection areas were "not up to the job".

Protecting our seas is one of the biggest environmental challenges after climate change, and the two are closely linked
Department of Environment spokesman

The organisation said "urgent action" was needed to allow the seas to recover from centuries of exploitation.

It has listed a total of 15 locations where it feels action should be taken.

They are Lamlash Bay and the Solway Firth in Scotland; Rathlin Island and Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland; and the Menai Strait and Skomer in Wales.

The sites listed in England are the Isles of Scilly, The Manacles in Cornwall, Lyme Bay Reefs, Studland Bay, The Overfalls on the Isle of Wight, The Wash, Dogger Bank and Easington-Dimlington Reef on Humberside, as well as Shell Flat in the Irish Sea.

The Wildlife Trusts intends to present a petition - in the form of a giant fish - to the UK parliament.

Chief executive Stephanie Hilborne said: "We cannot delay the Marine Bill any longer. Our marine life is at stake.

"The Marine Bill must be included in next month's Queen's Speech and it must deliver marine reserves."

Groundbreaking proposals

A spokesman for the Department for Environment said the government hoped to publish a draft bill early in 2008.

"The government remains committed to delivering a Marine Act in this parliament," he said.

"Protecting our seas is one of the biggest environmental challenges after climate change, and the two are closely linked.

"The proposals in the Marine Bill White Paper are groundbreaking and would raise management and protection of our seas to a world-leading level."

The Scottish Government has previously stressed its support for a Marine Bill.

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