Wildlife Trust supports voluntary fishing ban at St Bees to protect breeding seabirds

Common guillemot diving ©Alex Mustard/2020VISION

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is supporting the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) to encourage fishers in Cumbria to protect local seabirds, such as guillemots and razorbills, by signing up to a voluntary ban on placing fishing nets off St Bees headland during the nesting season.

The ban, which will come into place on 1 March 2018, has been drawn up by the NWIFCA. Cumbria Wildlife Trust supports the ban as it will help to protect these seabirds which face threats from a number of pressures nationally.

Dr Emily Baxter, Senior Marine Conservation Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust explains why this area is so special for wildlife: “St Bees headland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), where thousands of guillemots and razorbills come to nest in the spring and summer. The area of sea just off the headland is part of the Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone and it is here that the birds feed on fish and loaf on the surface. The sandstone cliffs at St Bees are a very important habitat for the breeding seabirds and are the only breeding site in England for black guillemots. They are Cumbria’s only sea cliffs and the dramatic sight, smell and noise of huge numbers of nesting birds draws many visitors to the area every summer.”

Around breeding time, unfortunately the birds are particularly at risk of being caught in fishing gear, especially nets, as they dive to feed

She goes on to explain the dangers posed by fishing nets being placed near the cliffs: “Around breeding time, unfortunately the birds are particularly at risk of being caught in fishing gear, especially nets, as they dive to feed. If they become entangled the birds are likely to drown. As well as the obvious danger for the birds, this is distressing to those fishing and to members of the public. We welcome this voluntary ban and are encouraging all those who go fishing here to sign up to it, by not fishing with nets within the closed area between 1 March and 15 July*. This way we can help protect our breeding seabird colonies at this crucial time of the year and help to keep this wonderful Cumbrian habitat special.”

Razorbills. Photo: Alice Trevail

Razorbills ©Alice Trevail

Dr Baxter is urging members of the public to report sightings of fishing with nets around St Bees headland during the breeding season. If you do see this activity during the period outlined above, please contact the North Western Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority on 01524 727970. You can find out more about the exact area covered by this voluntary code of practice here >>

* The date the ban will be removed is provisionally set as 15 July 2018, but this will be finalised during the season depending on the timing of their breeding.

Notes to Editors

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is the only voluntary organisation devoted solely to the conservation of the wildlife and wild places of Cumbria. The Trust stands up for wildlife, creates wildlife havens, and seeks to raise environmental awareness.

Formed in 1962 and supported by over 15,000 members, the Trust cares for over 40 nature reserves, campaigns for the protection of endangered habitats and species such as limestone pavements and red squirrels, and works with adults and children to discover the importance of the natural world.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is working alongside the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside, and Cheshire Wildlife Trust to protect the wildlife in and around the Irish Sea, with funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust.

North Western Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) was formed in 2011. There are 10 Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities around the coast of England that share the same vision: “to lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry”.