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Environment Protection: Seas and Oceans

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what legal advice he has received on whether an environmental damage assessment is required in relation to fishing and related activities within the proposed offshore special area of conservation sites at (a) Braemar Pockmarks, (b) Scanner Pockmark, (c) North Norfolk sandbanks and Saturn Reef, (d) Haig Frais, (e) Stanton Banks, (f) Darwin Mounds and (g) Wyville Thomson Ridge. (204638)

The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 (OMCRs) came into force on 21 August 2007 and provides for controls on certain activities that have an effect on important species and habitats in the offshore marine environment through a number of offences that aim to prevent environmentally damaging activities, and for the carrying out of appropriate assessments of plans or projects where required by Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (the habitats directive).

Legal advice in drafting and implementing these regulations has been ongoing to determine how they might apply to fisheries and best meet the UK obligations under Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (the birds directive), the habitats directive and the common fisheries policy.

The UK has not yet submitted the sites mentioned to the European Commission to be considered for designation as marine Special Areas of Conservation. If and when they are submitted they will receive the full protection afforded by the OMCRs.