Highlands & Islands

Area to protect harbour porpoise off west Scotland

Harbour porpoise Image copyright PA
Image caption The harbour porpoise has seen its numbers decline in recent years because of difficulties catching food and breeding

A new conservation area has been set up in waters off the west of Scotland to help protect harbour porpoise.

A so-called Special Area of Conservation (SAC) has been created in the Inner Hebrides and Minches.

The facility is the largest conservation area for the marine species in Europe.

Scientists warned earlier this year that numbers of harbour porpoise were falling because of difficulties with catching food and breeding.

They had called on the Scottish government to act and introduce protected sites for the animals.

'Greater protection'

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said she was pleased to designate the first SAC and added: "This will help maintain the favourable conservation status and provide protection to the species and their habitats."

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks welcomed the move and said he was hopeful more such sites would be established in future.

He said: "It's fantastic news that Europe's largest Special Area of Conservation for harbour porpoise is to be located off the west coast of Scotland.

"We've long called for greater protection for this species and we look forward to working with the Scottish government and others to ensure that this site contributes to a coherent and well-managed network of marine protected areas."

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