European Commission takes UK to court over failure to protect marine species
The European Commission is taking the UK to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to propose sites for the protection of the harbour porpoise, a marine mammal regularly found in UK waters.
EU legislation on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora requires member states to propose a list of sites for a number of designated species and their habitats, ensuring their protection from threats and to take measures to ensure their conservation.
Due to the unfavourable status of the harbour porpoises in the EU, 13 other member states have designated around 200 sites for its protection. However, the UK has so far formally proposed only one small site in Northern Ireland (the Skerries and Causeway Special Area of Conservation) and one site in Scotland (the Inner Hebrides and Minches Special Area of Conservation).
The Commission says that since the UK has an extensive marine area, it has a particular responsibility for the protection of this species, and has repeatedly urged the British authorities to fulfil their obligations for the conservation of the species.
The action follows a letter of formal notice sent to the UK government in June 2013 and another in October 2014.
The UK has recently conducted a public consultation on a number of potential sites in English and Welsh waters and in September formally proposed one site in Scottish waters. However, many areas where the species occurs in greatest densities are lacking the protection required from potentially damaging activities such as offshore wind farm construction, oil and gas exploration and fishing.
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