Sea life needs protecting at Welsh sites, experts warn

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Media captionPredators need urgent protection say conservationists

Dolphins, basking sharks and whales living off Wales need to be protected from over-fishing, pollution and marine development, according to a charity.

The Wildlife Trusts want nine Welsh sites, important to the preservation of marine life, to be protected.

The hotspots are known as areas where large marine wildlife gather to feed, breed and raise their young.

Conservationists warn the sites are "acutely vulnerable" to human activities such as boat traffic.

British waters are home to an estimated 29 species of whale, dolphin, porpoise and the world's second largest shark - the basking shark.

Harbour porpoises, common and bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, killer whales and sperm whales can all be found too.

Image copyright Wildlife Trusts
Image caption Common dolphins need to be protected, say conservationists

Welsh hotspots

  • Mid St George's Channel - notable for common dolphin
  • East of Celtic Deep - common dolphin and fin whale
  • Celtic Deep - common dolphin and fin whale
  • South of Celtic Deep - common dolphin and fin whale
  • Lleyn Peninsula and the Sarnau - harbour porpoise and Risso's dolphin
  • Cardigan Bay - harbour porpoise
  • Pembrokeshire Marine - harbour porpoise
  • North of Celtic Deep - common dolphin
  • North and west coasts of Anglesey - harbour porpoise

While the UK government is creating a number of "marine protected areas" already, the trusts argue there are no such areas for large marine life - also know as "megafauna".

Joan Edwards, the Wildlife Trusts' head of living seas, said: "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.

"The UK has made huge advances in marine conservation in recent years but there is still a significant job to do."

Threat to wildlife

One "hotspot" plan includes creating a protected area for common dolphins in the north of Celtic Deep, which lies off the Welsh coast.

The food-rich area is a critical habitat for the common dolphin, which gathers in large numbers in the summer to feed and calve, said the Wildlife Trusts.

Image copyright Wildlife Trusts
Image caption Source: Wildlife Trusts

In response, the Welsh government said: "We note the report and will consider further as part of our work on the UK's current stock-take of marine protected areas."

A further eight protected sites have been called for in England.

'More effective measures'

However, not everyone agrees with the plan.

A Defra spokesperson told BBC News: "We recognise the importance of whales and dolphins.

"But they can move across large areas of sea, so for this reason Marine Protected Areas may not be the most effective way to protect them.

"That's why we continue to focus our efforts on more effective measures, such as reducing by-catch in fisheries."

Image copyright WildlifeTrusts

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