Wildlife campaigners are calling for important places for dolphins, whales and basking sharks to be protected in 17 ‘megafauna hotspots’ around our shores, including at the Manacles and the western channel off the Lizard.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is part of a national campaign by the Wildlife Trusts to "safeguard some of our most fascinating and treasured marine creatures" by ensuring these newly identified hotspots are protected by law

The 'Save Our Ocean Giants' is calling on the government to "secure the missing link in marine protection for English and Welsh waters" saying that while the UK Government is working towards achieving a network of Marine Protected Areas, the absence of protection for the nutrient-rich and highly productive places on which marine megafauna most depend is a "glaring omission in this process". 

Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Seas says, “Many people are surprised to discover that in the waters surrounding our shores you could encounter 29 different species of whale, dolphin and porpoise and the second largest shark in the world – the basking shark. However, there’s an urgent need to create protected areas at sea for our ocean giants and ensure a network of sites to safeguard these species for generations to come.”

“The UK has made huge advances in marine conservation in recent years but there is still a significant job to do. Our marine megafauna - whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks – are still under threat. Many are suffering from the impacts of fishing, whether direct or indirect, increased boat traffic, marine developments and the more persistent effects of pollution - many substances bio-accummulate and affect generations of animals and overall population health.

“Not all of these impacts can be mitigated by spatial protection measures alone but, by designating areas of the sea which are known hotspots, we can provide safe havens for these species and some impacts can be limited or removed altogether.”

Of the sites listed, there are three of relevance to Cornish waters, The Lizard, The Manacles, and The Western Channel.

Ruth Williams, Marine Conservation Manager at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, says, “We are incredibly lucky that many of these enigmatic animals frequent our diverse Cornish waters, but many of them are long lived and slow growing and vulnerable to human activities.

"We want to see these animals protected in some of the key places where they gather to feed, breed and socialise. The sites proposed have been studied for many years and have a large amount of data to back up our proposals, much of it collected through Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Seaquest programmes of sightings and acoustic monitoring. The sites are areas of high productivity and therefore important to the whole ecosystem, and whilst we acknowledge that large animals like dolphins and sharks can roam over wide areas, protecting these specific areas can contribute to their protection.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is urging the public to sign an e-action which calls on the Government to protect the 17 megafauna hotspots around our shores to secure a brighter future for dolphins, whales and basking sharks.

Visit www.wildlifetrusts/oceangiants.

Falmouth Packet:

The areas marked on the map are the megafauna hotspots that The Wildlife Trusts would like to see protected.  Some of these places already have designations – whether as Marine Conservation Zones, Special Areas of Conservation and more – but whales, dolphins and basking sharks are not listed as ‘features’ to be protected within them.

The 17 ‘megafauna hotspots’ The Wildlife Trusts want to see protected are:

1. Farnes East, Coquet to St Marys – notable for white-beaked dolphin, harbour porpoise and minke whale.

2. Mid St George’s Channel – notable for beaked common dolphin.

3. Bideford North to Foreland Point – notable for harbour porpoise.

4. East of Celtic Deep – notable for common dolphin and fin whale.

5. Celtic Deep – notable for common dolphin and fin whale.

6. South of Celtic Deep – notable for common dolphin and fin whale.

7. Western Channel – notable for common dolphin, humpback whale and fin whale.

8. Manacles – notable for basking shark, harbour porpoise and (seasonally) minke whale.

9. Lizard, Western channel – notable for common dolphin, harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin and basking shark.

10. Lyme Bay – notable for harbour porpoise.

11. North and west coasts of Anglesey – notable for harbour porpoise.

12. Lleyn Peninsula and the Sarnau – notable for harbour porpoise and Risso’s dolphin.

13. Cardigan Bay – notable for harbour porpoise.

14. Pembrokeshire Marine – notable for harbour porpoise.

15. North of Celtic Deep – notable for common dolphin.

16. Eastern coastline including Silver Pit – notable for harbour porpoise.

17. Dogger bank – notable for harbour porpoise and white-beaked dolphin.