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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Bid to protect marine wildlife
John Randall in front of fish tank   RSPB Images
John Randall MP with typical UK fish, at the London Aquarium
Alex Kirby

A UK Member of Parliament is urging colleagues to support a bill to give greater protection to marine wildlife.

The MP, John Randall, a Conservative who represents Uxbridge in west London, has introduced the Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill.

It is to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 26 October.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is backing Mr Randall's attempt.

Poor relation

He said: "The coastal waters surrounding England and Wales are among the most wildlife-rich in Europe, supporting a miraculous web of life from microscopic plankton to the largest whales.

Jewel anemones   Colin Munroe/marine bio-images
Jewel anemones: Found on the Channel wreck
"However, protection for the marine environment remains incredibly weak compared with that on land, as only a small proportion of the total number of designated conservation sites occur below low-water mark.

"My bill, if it becomes law, will create a new designation to protect and manage nationally important marine wildlife sites.

"My bill is only the first step towards the wider protection of the UK's environment, but it is an important step and one which we need to take now."

Species-rich wreck

The RSPB has drawn up an initial list of 34 sites which it says should be given strict protection.

Pink sea fan   Colin Munroe/marine bio-images
A pink sea fan: The bill would help them
One is the wreck of HMS Northcoates, a second world war minesweeper lying in the English Channel off the coast of Sussex.

It is encrusted with species, including Devonshire cup corals and jewel anemones, both of them at the eastern limit of their known distributions.

The RSPB says other special sites include feeding areas for roseate, little and Sandwich terns, and for gannets. Two-thirds of the world's gannet population is found in UK waters.

Wealth of sites

It says other species of national concern which would benefit under the bill include burrowing anemones, leopard-spotted gobies, Ross corals and pink sea fans.

Other sites it has identified include Robin Hood's Bay, off the Yorkshire coast, and the Cymyran strait, a narrow channel separating Holy Island from Anglesey.

Images of fan and anemone courtesy and copyright of Colin Munroe/marine bio-images

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Scotland
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