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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 04:05 GMT 05:05 UK
Scottish 'barrier reef' under threat
The Darwin Mounds
The coral reef is 1,000m underwater
Environmental group WWF has accused the government of failing to protect a unique Scottish coral site from being damaged by deep-water fishing.

The organisation said it was still waiting for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) secretary of state to follow up on a promise she had made 18 months ago at a WWF summit.

Margaret Beckett had pledged to designate the Darwin Mounds, situated off the northern Scottish coastline, a special area of conservation.

WWF also called on the European Commission to introduce emergency measures to stop deep-water trawling over the 100km sq area covered by the coral.

Ministers north and south of the border need to take the marine environment more seriously
Helen McLachlan, WWF Scotland
WWF Scotland marine policy officer Helen McLachlan said: "Up close, the Darwin Mounds are as beautiful and as rich in marine wildlife as the Great Barrier Reef.

"We are extremely frustrated that the government has promised time and time again to protect these amazing reefs but nothing has happened.

"Ministers north and south of the border need to take the marine environment more seriously."

WWF also called for a review of other marine activities in the area, such as oil and gas exploration and cable laying.

Discovered in 1998, the Darwin Mounds sit at a depth of 1,000m, about 185km northwest of Scotland.

They support a wide variety of marine life such as sponges, starfish, sea urchins and deep sea fish such as the blue ling, round-nosed grenadier and orange roughy.

Helen McLachlan, WWF policy officer
"We have had promise after promise and nothing has happened"

Fishing concern over coral zone
10 Feb 03  |  Scotland

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