Proposals are being put forward to protect sea wildlife and habitats through the creation of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ).
One zone on a list of 23 is off the coast of south east Northumberland and stretches from Coquet Island to St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay.
The area provides a habitat for anemones, soft corals, sea squirts, starfish, sea urchins, crabs and lobsters, and includes the first record of the Arctic cushion star.
A total of 37 sites had been proposed to go forward to a second consultation to fill ‘major gaps’ that currently exist in the development of a UK network, with 23 making the final list.
But the Marine Conservation Society biodiversity and fisheries programme manager, Dr Peter Richardson, criticised the decision to cut the sites from 37 to 24.
He said: “We are alarmed that these proposed zones have been shelved.
“We believe all of the sites are necessary to achieve the government’s stated commitment to deliver a full network.
“Delaying 14 sites means that a number of the UK’s iconic marine places and habitats are still not adequately protected.”
Marine environment minister George Eustice said: “We’re doing more than ever to protect our seas, preserving incredible underwater landscapes and helping our sea life flourish.”
“It is important we secure the future of our coastal communities as part of our long-term economic plan.”
View the consultation at www.mcsuk.org/mpa