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Estuary News

Wildlife Refuges for the Exe Estuary

Two new areas for nature have been put in place near Dawlish Warren and Exmouth in the Exe Estuary.

The areas, known as Wildlife Refuges, will help to balance tourism, business and leisure needs with the role of the Exe Estuary as a sanctuary for internationally important wildlife and natural habitat.

Conservation experts say the Wildlife Refuges are needed to make sure protected birds are undisturbed and have safe places to rest and feed. Estuary users are asked to voluntarily avoid the areas – all year round at Dawlish Warren’s refuge and from 15th September to the end of December at Exmouth’s refuge.

Following a comprehensive nine month consultation, views including concerns about safety, from residents and the wide range of Exe Estuary users were taken into account in developing the voluntary areas.

Safety of users is paramount. If a water user gets into difficulty and their safety is at risk, then the refuge areas can be accessed temporarily, until users can safely make their way out of the Wildlife Refuges.

The refuges apply to all kinds of activities which take place on the intertidal, on the water and along the shore including dog walking, walking, fishing, bait collecting, kite surfing, windsurfing, canoeing and sailing.

The Wildlife Refuges are marked by yellow buoys and an education programme will include new signs, leaflets and advice from two Habitat Mitigation Officers who work on and around the Estuary. The areas will be monitored to see how effective they are at reducing disturbance to wildlife.

Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for City Development, Cllr Daniel Gottschalk, is Chair of South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee (SEDHREC), which approved the wildlife refuges. He said:

“On behalf of the Committee, we would like to thank everyone who collaborated and helped develop these safe areas for birds to rest and feed. Some of these birds have travelled thousands of miles before coming to rest in the Exe Estuary and disturbing them can be life threatening because using scarce energy can reduce their ability to survive.

“We are now calling on the wide range of Estuary users for their co-operation and support as we ask them to avoid a very small part of the Exe Estuary at certain times.”

The refuges are part of the Exe Estuary Special Protection Area which regularly provides space for around 20,000 birds to rest and feed. This means that neighbouring East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter Councils must legally prevent disturbance to birds and deterioration of their habitats.

Councillors from each of the neighbouring local authorities approved the Wildlife Refuges at a meeting of SEDHREC on 23rd October 2017. 

For more information, visit www.exewildliferefuge.org.uk



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