Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

Nature reserve 'boost' for island

Gulls at sunset on Skokholm Island
The island is home to the third largest Manx shearwater colony in the world as well as storm petrels, puffins, guillemots and razorbills. Photo: Dave Milborrow

An island home to internationally important colonies of breeding sea birds is being made Wales' newest national nature reserve.

The designation seals Skokholm, off Pembrokeshire, as one of the UK's most important havens for wildlife.

Its owner, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said it would work on making it more accessible to visitors while protecting its fragile habitats.

Plans include improving the landing jetty and up-grading accommodation.

The island, 2.5 miles (4km) off the coast, is already protected by a number of designations.

It is nationally protected as a site of special scientific interest and is part of the Pembrokeshire coast national park.

It is home to the third largest Manx shearwater colony in the world.

A large percentage of Europe's population of storm petrels breed there, as well as 4,500 puffins and 2000 guillemots and razorbills.

At the trust's annual meeting later John Lloyd Jones, chairman of the Countryside Council for Wales, will present the formal declaration.

He said: "Skokholm is home to internationally important colonies of breeding sea birds, including Manx shearwater, puffin, storm petrel, razorbill and guillemots.

"Its designation as a national nature reserve will seal its place as one of the UK's most important havens for wildlife."

Trust chief executive Dr Madeleine Havard said: "We are delighted Skokholm has become the latest addition to Wales' magnificent suite of national nature reserves, which also include three other Pembrokeshire islands - Skomer, Ramsey and Grassholm.

"The declaration means we can work on making the island more accessible to visitors as well as continuing to protect its fragile habitats and wildlife.

"It's another great boost for all those organisations and individuals who helped us purchase this very important reserve through our public appeal in 2006."

At present the island is difficult to reach as travelling by boat is dependant on the weather.

Dr Harvard said future plans included setting up remote cameras, like the ones on Skomer Island, to allow everyone to see the wildlife from the mainland.

Other plans include improving the landing jetty to aid access to the island and up-grading the accommodation facilities.

As well as the sea birds grey seals live in the waters surrounding the island and can be seen almost daily basking on rocks at low tide.

Sightings of common, bottlenose and Risso's dolphins and harbour porpoise have also been recorded.

The island is also a place of historical importance, with settlers dating back as far as the Bronze Age.

Near the centre lies a Grade II Listed cottage and converted farm buildings, which provide accommodation for staff and up to 15 residential visitors or volunteers.

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