Plans for a 21-mile long protection area along the north-east coast to safeguard the region’s most under-threat seabirds have been backed by councillors.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine area committee yesterday approved Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH’s) expansion of the current Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch special protection area (SPA).
The changes means that it will now run from Cruden Bay to Aberdeen, protecting primarily sandwich terns and little terns, birds RSPB Scotland has placed under an “amber” status.
Black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemot, herring gulls, European shags and northern fulmar will also benefit from the proposals.
And the committee was informed the conservation area would not affect the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, planned for off the north-east coast.
SPAs are established through European Parliament legislation in order to conserve wild birds, their nests, eggs and habitats.
The main reason for the expansion is to encompass foraging areas used by terns breeding in the region.
There are about 12,000 sandwich tern breeding pairs in the UK, and 1,900 little terns pairs.
SNH’s plans will involve merging the new SPA with the current one in existence from Buchan Ness to Collieston, which supports 95,000 seabirds.
Chairman of the committee and Ellon and District SNP councillor, Rob Merson, said: “It was approved as per the recommendations. It was established that there wasn’t an impact on the offshore wind turbines, that had been taken into account.
“It seems to be a sensible precaution to take to ensure the continued sustainability of the species.”