MCS urges Government to designate English Marine Conservation Zones now that the evidence is in.
MCS says it welcomes a report published today (19th July 2012) by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee which confirms there is sufficient scientific evidence, backed by extensive stakeholder support, to justify designation of a much needed network of proposed Marine Conservation Zones in English seas.
However, MCS is concerned that the Government department Defra, and its ministers, will not take heed of its own advisory bodies’ findings, and elect instead to designate fewer sites than is necessary to create a network that is ‘ecologically coherent’.
The conservation zones, chosen to protect vulnerable marine life in English seas, were proposed last September after a lengthy process involving two-years of regional workshops attended by hundreds of fishermen, marine industrialists, scientists and conservationists, including MCS. These stakeholders jointly recommended the 127 sites for protection. The Government recently delayed designation of the sites, flouting international commitments, claiming that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support the designation.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer of the Marine Conservation Society said “We are delighted that Natural England has published solid scientific evidence for the majority of sites, so that Government can no longer use ‘lack of evidence’ as an excuse to delay designation or cut numbers of Marine Conservation Zones. Extensive stakeholder consultation and pragmatic decision making coupled with this evidence should be enough for any reasonable government to have confidence to designate the sites”.
While the report suggests that a small number of sites have only limited data and evidence to make decisions on protecting them, MCS suggests that this is not necessarily an indication of those sites’ importance, and that further surveys could reveal more data. In addition, some sites were chosen by stakeholders to avoid impacts on fishermen and other industries, which makes the designation of all 127 sites put forward entirely valid.
MCS agrees with one of the key conclusions of the report, which states that the designation of proposed sites is necessary to meet our international commitments on marine protection. MCS also believes the Natural England report vindicates the hours and days of hard work by all participants in the regional workshops, which cost the taxpayer over £8million. Defra will hold a three month ‘public consultation’ starting in December this year to gather further public and industry opinion on designation of the 127 proposed sites.
Dr Solandt said, “Designation of all 127 MCZs provides the coalition Government with an important opportunity to prove they are the ‘greenest government ever’. MCS has shown that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK support these measures from our online Your Seas Your Voice campaign, and an Impact Analysis of the public’s attitude to marine protection, and we urge Defra to stick to its guns. These Marine Conservation Zones are an essential part of creating resilient and more productive seas for our economy and society. Protecting only a small proportion of the proposed sites would be a travesty.”
The Marine Conservation Society is the UK’s leading charity that works to protect the country’s seas shores and wildlife and in the last decade has been lobbying successive governments to establish marine protected areas in UK waters. MCS is among a suite of scientists, environmental charities and thousands of people concerned about our seas who feel that protection at these sites is urgently needed.
All UK governments have committed to putting in place networks of marine protected areas around the countries’ coastlines following the implementation of Marine Acts in the UK and Scotland in 2009 and 2010.
You can make your views on the sites, and on marine protection throughout the UK, known to politicians and decision-makers via website www.mcsuk.org/mpa.