Sailing ban in sensitive sea areas proposed

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The Independent Online
FISHING, dredging and leisure activities such as sailing or water skiing may be excluded from sensitive marine areas identified by English Nature, the statutory body that advises government on the environment.

The areas, all below the tidal zone, contain unusual plants and animals which English Nature believes should be conserved. They include rich communities of seaweeds and invertebrates off Flamborough Head, bird breeding colonies in the Colne and Blackwater estuaries, sponges and bryozoans near Ilfracombe.

English Nature hopes to arrange for these areas to be marked on Admiralty charts so yachtsmen and fishermen can avoid damaging them unintentionally.

So far, English Nature has identified 27 of the country's most sensitive areas but there is no statutory means to enforce protection. The agency gives details of the areas and sets out its new objectives in two documents published today: Managing England's marine wildlife, and Conserving England's marine heritage.

EC laws protecting the marine environment will be in place by 2000. In the meantime, English Nature is seeking agreements to limit fishing in sensitive areas and the development of some sites as voluntary marine nature reserves.

Existence of such sites will also mean that the Crown will have to give consideration to sensitive areas before leasing parts of the sea-bed for extraction of aggregates or minerals.