A CHARITY responsible for the protection of seabirds has appointed a marine conservation officer to help protect species in the North Sea.
Helen Quayle has been recruited by the RSPB to work towards safeguarding the species that breed on the North East coast, which includes Hartlepool and east Durham.
These include puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars, all of whose populations have declined in recent years.
RSPB officials, who run the Saltholme reserve on the outskirts of Hartlepool, say the seas around the UK are beautiful and rich in wildlife but are at risk from offshore development, overfishing and the effects of climate change.
In 2009, Parliament passed the Marine and Coastal Access Act, committing the Government to creating a network of sea-based protected areas known as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around England and Wales.
One of the main focuses of Helen's role will be to influence the decision makers responsible for creating these MCZs and making sure they deliver protection for seabirds.
She said: "These species are indicators of how healthy our seas are and we need to respond to population declines in order to preserve the marine environment for wildlife and the people that rely on it."