The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside has welcomed the news that Liverpool Bay has been designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds.
The announcement has come as the Government unveils 15 new Marine Protected Areas around the UK, also including Shell Flat, a large sandbank off the Fleetwood coast that had been the proposed site for an offshore wind farm two years ago.
A consultation has also started regarding the designation of the Lune Deep reefs, at the southern end of Morecambe Bay, as a Special Area of Conservation. The Government has submitted the sites to the European Commission to be included within the European 'Natura 2000' network of protected areas.
The designation of Liverpool Bay as an SPA means that the area, which stretches between Anglesey and the Lancashire coast, will have its wildlife protected, including the tens of thousands of common scoters and a thousand or so red-throated divers that overwinter there each year.
Marine Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said: "Our seas are home to some of the most diverse species and habitats in the world and they need just as much protection as our land. Today is a major step forward in helping us to achieve clean, healthy and vibrant seas where marine life can thrive.
"Working hand-in-hand with the creation of Marine Conservation Zones, created under the groundbreaking Marine and Coastal Access Act, these sites will make a major contribution to the delivery of an ecological network of Marine Protected Areas by 2012."
Joan Edwards, Head of The Wildlife Trusts’ Living Seas vision, said: "The Wildlife Trusts welcome these designations. They are a significant step towards the UK Government realising its commitment to establishing an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. The next eighteen months represent a further critical phase of the process, as Government looks to establish a network of Marine Conservation Zones by 2012."