Decision on protection zone for Cuddy ducks due next month

A decision on a new protection zone for a bird with historic ties to Northumberland – following an appeal by Berwick’s MP – is expected next month.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 10:04 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 11:05 am
Eider in Seahouses harbour, by Rach Douglas.
Eider in Seahouses harbour, by Rach Douglas.

A consultation took place last summer on a Government proposal to introduce another Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), running from Berwick to St Mary’s at Whitley Bay, in order to protect the eider duck.

It followed calls from Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan in the House of Commons last February for the birds, known locally as Cuddy ducks after St Cuthbert, to receive greater protection.

At Monday’s (April 29) quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), which covers an area from the River Tyne to the Scottish Border and six nautical miles out to sea, it was reported that Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) is due to announce the next batch of marine protected areas on Friday, June 7.

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However, chief executive Mike Hardy issued a note of caution on this timeline given the amount of work being carried out by Defra in relation to Brexit.

Similar concerns were mentioned at the meeting as when the issue was first discussed by NIFCA last July, including that estuary areas aren’t included in the proposed zone and the confusion with the existing MCZ, Coquet to St Mary’s, which aims to protect species and habitat on the seabed.

If approved, Northumberland County Council would be responsible for the new MCZ and would have to introduce by-laws. The main restrictions would likely be on recreational activities such as jet-skiing.

In relation to the Coquet to St Mary’s MCZ, NIFCA members agreed to move forward on proposals for fisheries management in the area, which will include an overall ban on dredging and a permit requirement for lighter gear. This will be subject to formal consultation.

It was also agreed to carry out a study to try to find out more about the different types of mud across the zone, as different types of sediment provide habitat for different species.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service