UK names new Ramsar site for World Wetlands Day


wwdsticker4e-sm.jpg (7601 bytes)Extra Protection for Important Bird Habitats Announced on World Wetlands Day

Press release, 2 February 2000. -- Little terns, Turnstones, Purple sandpipers and Bewick’s swans are just some of the wild birds whose habitats will be better protected by new conservation measures announced today - World Wetlands Day - by DETR Minister Chris Mullin. The Northumbria Coast and the Breydon Water Extension in Norfolk have been newly classified as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and as Special Protection Areas (SPA) for birds. This will ensure that the areas are preserved for wildlife and nature conservation.

The Northumbria Coast covers over 1,107 hectares and is partly located within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the North Northumberland Heritage Coast. The site consists largely of sections of rocky shore with boulder and cobble beaches, and is home to more than 1% of the British population of breeding Little tern. The site supports the highest number of Purple sandpipers in Britain and the second highest wintering concentration of Turnstones of any site in the British Isles.

The extension to the Breydon Water SPA/Ramsar site covers over 694 hectares of part of the Halvergate Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is considered to be an integral part of Breydon Water SPA and Ramsar site because the Bewick’s swan and Ruff use the site.

Mr Mullin said:

"I am pleased to announce this latest classification, which brings the UK total of Special Protection Areas to 204 and Ramsar sites to 151. This classification further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to recognising the international importance of these wetland and ornithological sites. It is appropriate that today’s announcement should be made on World Wetlands Day which marks the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands."


1. The 1979 European Commission Directive (79/409 EEC) on the conservation of wild birds requires member states to notify the Commission of sites which are of particular importance to the conservation of wild birds. The UK is also a signatory to and an active participant in the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention - named after the town in Iran where the first conference was held in 1971). The broad objectives of the Convention are to stem the progressive encroachment on, and loss of, wetlands, and to promote their wise use. The Little tern, Purple sandpiper, turnstone, Bewick’s swan and Ruff are all listed in Annex 1 of the EC Birds Directive, which lists the most endangered birds in Europe.

2. No site is classified under the Birds Directive unless it has first been notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Such notification protects the site by law from activities likely to damage its nature conservation interest. The Special Protection Area (SPA) classification gives public recognition to the international importance of the site and protection as a European site under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulation 1994. This means that development proposals that would be detrimental to the nature conservation interest will be permitted only in very exceptional circumstances.

3. 204 Special Protection Areas and 151 Ramsar sites have now been designated in the UK. The Northumbria Coast site covers sections of the coast from Berwick upon Tweed to Hartlepool and the Breydon Water Extension is located near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.

4. World Wetlands Day is being celebrated internationally by the countries that have signed up to the Ramsar Convention. 2 February is the 29th Anniversary of the day the Ramsar Convention was signed in 1971.

5. The UK is in the process of setting up a National Ramsar Committee to guide its implementation of the Convention under the chairmanship of DETR involving statutory agencies, the newly devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and voluntary conservation bodies.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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