Government promises more English MCZs over the next three years

Defra announced in a Press Release, 21st November 2013: “Coral reefs, jellyfish and seahorses are just some of the marine life that will be better protected following the creation of 27 new Marine Conservation Zones today.

“The UK has one of the world’s richest marine environments and these new sites will join over 500 marine protected areas that already exist to ensure it stays that way. The MCZsMCZ Marine Conservation Zone will cover an area roughly three times the size of Wiltshire and will span the waters around the English coast. The sites will be protected from damaging activities to ensure their features are conserved.

Marine Environment Minister George Eustice has also announced plans to designate two more phases of MCZs over the next three years to complete our contribution to a network of marine protected areas. A consultation on the next phase is expected to be launched in early 2015.

Image of marine spiny lobster.

Image of marine spiny lobster.

Making the announcement, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said: “We are doing more than ever to protect our marine environment. Almost a quarter of English inshore waters and nine per cent of UK waters will now be better protected. These Marine Conservation Zones will safeguard a wide range of precious sea life from seahorses to oyster beds and our ambitions do not end there. This is just the beginning, we plan two further phases over the next three years and work to identify these will begin shortly.”

Defra reports: These new sites will make a valuable contribution to conserving marine life around our coast and will provide greater protection for around 8,000 sq km of offshore and around 2,000 sq km of inshore waters.

Following a thorough consultation, it has been decided that four sites will not be designated in this phase. A decision has been made not to designate the sites at Stour and Orwell and Hilbre Island. A final decision will be made on whether to designate the proposed Hythe Bay site early next year and we will consider the North of Celtic Deep site in the next phase.

Action will be taken to ensure that the new sites are properly protected from damaging activities, taking into account local needs. Restrictions will differ from site to site depending on what features the site intends to protect. Activities, for example fishing, will only be regulated if they cause harm to wildlife or damaging habitats that are being conserved in the MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone.

Designating MCZs to contribute to a network of Marine Protected Areas is a Government commitment under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to ensure that our marine environment is protected for years to come.

The Minister, George Eustice MP, added:n “It is important to remember MCZs are only one piece of the jigsaw. Over 500 marine protected areas already exist around the UK. Together with MCZs these sites will help safeguard our rich marine environment and keep our seas sustainable, healthy and productive for future generations.”

Defra advice: Please click here for more information on the new sites.

Source: Defra Press Release, 21st November 2013:


MARINET observes: Not only did the government at the time of the passage of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009, fail to incorporate highly protected (no-take) marine conservations zones into the legislation, but it is also struggling now with its commitment to create an ecologically coherent network of marine reserves. By ignoring the advice of scientific experts that 127 MCZs are required to provide a seriously representative sample of habitats and linked areas with adequate protection, there is real doubt that government is engaged in anything other than tokenism.More MCZs are promised over the next three years — but how many does this promise encompass, and who can trust this promise when this first stage of delivery has fallen so seriously short of all scientific criteria in terms of need? Furthermore, there is now a strong suspicion that commercial considerations have taken over the designation process, with these commercial interests saying “not on my patch, Minister”.

The reality is that MCZs are desperately need to protect fish spawning and nursery grounds if we are ever to have any hope of rebuilding our fish stocks and thus regain fish food security along with the fishermen who have been displaced being re-employed as the managers and custodians of these sites whilst stocks recover and, ultimately, deliver them with a re-invigorated livelihood. But where is the evidence of such thinking in these actions and announcements by the Minister?

This is a sad and depressing announcement by a government that came to power saying that it would be “the greenest government ever”. It is sad because this action provides only evidence to the contrary, and it is depressing because it is just further evidence, in a long history and catalogue of evidence, that the mismanagement of our seas is profound, and the ability to apply corrective management being apparently beyond the understanding of our government.

Some around government have said that Marinet, in expressing such views as this, is simply “tilting at windmills”. Maybe we are, but we would love to be the driving force behind the windmills of real change. Don Quixote may have been a man of dreams, but unless we start to dream of a better future, and then act on it, we are all in serious trouble.

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