Marinet asks: Does “co-location” feature in anyone’s thinking for effective MCZ delivery?

Marinet observes that co-location — where marine reserves exist in conjunction with other licensed uses of the sea — appears to have been forgotten or ignored by nearly all conservation practitioners in the delivery of the UK marine conservation (MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone) network.

Marinet believes this is an extraordinary situation because co-location, with marine reserves established in conjunction with shipping lanes, oil and gas fields, wind farms, seabed cable lines, aggregate dredging reference areas and munitions dumping sites, could result in the the delivery of around 20-25% of our seas under effective conservation management. This would enable Defra to go a very long way towards meeting its own declared commitment of 25% of UK seas under effective MPA management by 2016, and to meet international commitments to have at least 10% under effective MPA management by 2020 (Aichi Biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals. Target).

Furthermore, it would cement the important principle that conservation is in the best interests of other users of the sea. Conservation and other uses of the sea are not mutually exclusive. Rather, effective management of the ecology of our seas works best when other users of the sea are able to work in tandem with conservation objectives.

For example, it is not just well known that conservation areas can assist in the regeneration of fish stocks, but it is also well known that wind farms and shipping lanes where safety in the use of the sea is paramount are ideal areas for rebuilding fish stocks.

Moreover, when this principle is established and funds are properly allocated — from industry and government — for the conservation management of these “co-location areas” then the most knowledgeable and skilled managers of the reserves will be fishermen employed to deliver this service. By this means, the fishing industry and the conservation ethic are united to a common purpose. The seas improve in health, and the economic potential of the industry is regenerated. In the former case via a management regime committed to the rebuilding of stocks and, in the latter case, by the harvesting of re-invigorated stocks.

Marinet asks: why are conservation practitioners, marine industries and government not thinking along these lines? What is the nature of the blindness that afflicts their perception?

The recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on its investigation into English MCZ delivery failed to have a single question asked by a Committee MP or a conservation NGO on this subject, see the report. Marinet asks, why? This failure to ask or perceive key questions is close to a failure of duty.

Marinet has drawn this matter to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), see correspondence, but, apart from a mention in the early stages of their 21st June Report that Marinet has made this observation, the Committee has made no attempt to bring this attention of the Minister and the UK Government. Once again, the question stands: why?

Marinet has striven to raise the profile of this important issue, and has made the point clearly to the national media in conjunction with the EAC June report, see press release. Marinet will continue to campaign strongly for the delivery of genuine marine conservation in conjunction with the other users of the seas. This is because it is not just logical, but also because it is inherently beneficial to all parties. What needs to change is not the aim or purpose of marine conservation, but rather the commitment and good sense of all people who claim that the sea is at the centre of their concern. The time has come for them to prove this because, to date, they are simply not displaying the actions or intelligence that demonstrate this.

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