Local MP offers support for a new east coast Marine Conservation Zone

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 2 February 2018

Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merriman, is supporting the bid for a new Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) off the Sussex coast.

Beachy Head
© Diego Torres / 889 images

It was really valuable to have members of the local angling community and Dr Peter Richardson, our Head of Ocean Recovery at the meeting to really demonstrate how strongly committed both we and the local communityare to Beachy Head East.”

Alice Tebb,
MCS Agents of Change Project Coordinator

The MP has met with MCS staff and the local angling community who are working to get Beachy Head East created in the final round of MCZ designations – to be announced in June.

The area, characterised by a sandstone and chalk reef system, is home to a wealth of marine wildlife including the ‘Bexhill Mussel Garden’ which is a fragile living reef host to many marine species.

Beachy Head East MCZ would come up to the average high water line, meaning that vulnerable habitats such as intertidal chalk reef and mussel beds could be fully protected.

“I was very concerned to learn from our meeting that the delicate marine environment off our local beaches is showing signs of damage from industrial fishing and beam trawling which destroys and scars the sandstone and chalk reef. If these marine environments are not protected we risk losing precious habitats, rare species and important fish breeding grounds, ” said Huw Merriman.

MCS has been instrumental in developing management for two other MCZs off the Sussex coast - Kingmere, off Littlehampton and Beachy Head West that runs along the coast between Brighton Marina and Beach Head.

The charity runs the Agents of Change Project in the area which is an initiative that helps improve community support for their local marine protected areas. It is focusing on the three MCZ sites, Kingmere and Beachy Head East, as well as Cromer Shoals Chalk Beds off Norfolk.

Once MCZs are designated, the next step is to ensure they are then properly managed.

Alice Tebb is the MCS Agents of Change Project Coordinator: “It was super exciting to discuss supporting Beachy Head East recommended MCZ with Mr Merriman and his team last week.

“It’s fantastic that he recognises the value Beachy Head East would add to local marine biodiversity and potential for the local economy. It was really valuable to have members of the local angling community and Dr Peter Richardson, our Head of Ocean Recovery at the meeting to really demonstrate how strongly committed both we and the local communityare to Beachy Head East.”

Huw Merriman said: “I am putting my full support behind the bid to include Beachy Head East in the final tranche of marine conservation zones. My Government is doing more than has ever been done in the past to protect our precious ‘Blue Belt’ and I will be working hard to make sure that the East Sussex coast is recognised for its biodiversity and conserved for generations to come.”

Marine protected areas have been proven to benefit local fisheries and improve local marine biodiversity. The designation of a marine protected area can also translate into increased business opportunities for the tourism and recreation sector as they have been shown to result in increased attractiveness of a specific area.

The Angling Trust, along with local anglers, has been campaigning alongside MCS for the seas to the east of Beachy Head to be designated as a MCZ. Local angler, Tim MacPherson, says they really appreciate the help and support given by the local MP: “It is essential that the unique features we have here, which help support our varied fish species, are properly protected and that in what is one of the busiest angling areas along the south coast, anglers can continue to enjoy fishing.

“The seas here are a wonderful asset for Bexhill, Hastings an Eastbourne and we hope creating a special conservation zone will help maintain the marine environment here for years to come”

The Agents of Change Project is led by MCS with Flora and Fauna International and the New Economics Foundation. Agents of Change is part of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s ‘Marine CoLABoration’.

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Did you know?…

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

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