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We urge full protection from damaging activities as proposed marine conservation zones are revealed

8th September 2011: The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) welcomes the announcement of 127 potential Marine Conservation Zones around England’s coast. Protected sites are desperately needed to protect our seas so that marine habitats and ecosystems can begin to recover from decades of degradation.

The sites have been selected through government-appointed regional projects, with industry and other stakeholders selecting sites that are ecologically important, but also considered acceptable on socio-economic grounds.

While this process has resulted in some heated negotiations and concessions, with some important ecological sites removed from the list due to industry concerns, overall consensus and support for the sites has been reached. We urge the Government to accept these stakeholder recommendations, and to designate the network as promised in 2012.

At present it is proposed that only some of the sites will be fully protected “reference sites” " making up less than 2% of the total area being recommended. While we are aware that, of the 127 marine protected sites proposed, 65 will contain reference sites, we understand that only approximately 20 of these will be fully protected.

We believes that all Marine Conservation Zones should be fully protected from damaging activities and bottom-towed fishing gears, and our work has shown overwhelming public support for this stance. Fully protected sites have been shown to yield a four-fold increase in the weight of marine species, whilst species diversity increases by 20%. There are benefits for fishermen too, with marine protected areas leading to some replenishment of stocks.

BBC coverage of the proposed marine conservation zones

Image source: Erling Svensen, pennatula phosphorea, Paul Naylor, jewel anemones green.

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