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BBC Scotland's John Knox reports
"They're beginning a debate which even the seagulls are expected to join in"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 07:23 GMT
Marine life protection plan

Marine animal
It is hoped the parks will protect marine life

Conservationists are calling a marine "national park" to be set up which would preserve Scotland's dolphins, whales and sea birds.

The World Wide Fund for Nature is spearheading plans to establish the protection zone off the north-west coast of Scotland, under the same legislation which will create national parks at Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms.

The idea is being discussed at a meeting of the Scottish Coastal Forum in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The WWF believes those interested in protecting Scotland's spectacular marine environment should get together with local communities around the Minch or in Orkney and Shetland to draw up plans for the park.

Wider application

The Environment Minister Sarah Boyack has confirmed that legislation now going through the Scottish Parliament for national parks could also apply to coastal areas and to the deep sea.

WWF says areas such as the Minch, between the West Coast and the Outer Hebrides, and the waters around Orkney and Shetland are of world class conservation value.

Seal Scotland has a spectacular marine environment
They are home to dolphins, whales, basking sharks, terns, puffins and guillemots.

It is expected that fishermen and the oil industry will be suspicious of the idea of a marine park.

However, the WWF says it wants to explore all areas of opinion.

Local community

It would like to see the first specific plans for a marine park coming from a local community keen to protect its natural resources.

Conservationists have warned in the past of what they consider an accident waiting to happen if tankers continue to use the restricted waters of the Minch as a sheltered short cut.

Dr Sian Pullen, the head of WWF's Marine Programme, said with an oil tanker incident every two weeks round the UK the country is not properly prepared to deal with a major oil spill like the Sea Empress incident off Wales four years ago.
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See also:
11 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
Protection demanded for whales
05 Jul 99 |  UK
Fears over whales safety
23 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Ministers drop Atlantic oil fight
22 Aug 99 |  Scotland
Celebrities make a splash for dolphins

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