First MCZs designated

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 20 December 2013

First MCZs designated After our huge public campaign in support of a network of Marine Conservation Zones for English Seas, the Government finally announced in November that the first 27 sites will be set up in 2014.

First MCZs designated After our huge public campaign in support of a network of Marine Conservation Zones for English Seas, the Government finally announced in November that the first 27 sites will be set up in 2014. The 10,000 square kms now coming under protection will help stem the alarming decline in British marine life, ensuring iconic species such as the seahorse, black bream and native oyster are better protected for the future in stunning places like Chesil Beach, the Skerries Banks and the Isles of Scilly. The Government also promised two more tranches of sites in 2014/15 and 2016/17, and committed itself to a final network of sites for the whole UK that is é’ecologically coherent’. Defra received around 40,000 responses to their consultation up to March 31st 2013, with over 5,000 individuals providing their feedback through MCS’ online facility, representing around 12.5% of the number received. MCS rallied enormous support for a network of MCZs, organising a 2000 strong march on parliament in February 2013 which was joined by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the 3 million viewers of his TV show “Fish Fight”. A July 2013 study, é’A report on the value of Marine Protected Areas in the UK to divers and anglers’, published by the Marine Conservation Society and various partners, showed the value of marine conservation zones far outweighed the costs of designating and managing them, placing an economic value between ú1.7 and ú3.4 billion per year on the full network of 127 MCZ sites. The 27 new MCZs will be multi-use, so low-impact fishing such as potting will be permitted in most sites. However, effective regulatory measures may be required to protect vulnerable sites from damaging activities like scallop dredging and bottom trawling. MCS’ Senior Policy Officer, Melissa Moore says, “It is vital that within these sites there is a clear notion of what can and can’t happen, and who is responsible for policing those activities, otherwise the Government are just creating paper parks. Ø MCS is now working hard to maximise the opportunity to develop the MCZ network with the next tranche of sites in 2014/15. We’re concerned that 37 priority sites, such as the Cape Bank west of Lands End and the Wash Approach, remain unprotected despite clear evidence that they’re at high risk of further damage. The 27 sites thus far protected represent less than a quarter of the number recommended by scientists to complete an é’ecologically coherent’ network Ø in English Seas.

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