Should Kimmeridge Bay and 95 other sites of the “same class” be made MCZs?

The Guardian reports, 11th August 2013: “Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset, with its rare lagoon sea snails and peacock’s tail seaweed, is one of 127 wildlife-rich sites which a two-year, £8m consultation recommended should gain protection as marine conservation zones (MCZsMCZ Marine Conservation Zone).

But, despite a 350,000-signature petition, ministers are only considering 31 MCZs and, after another consultation that received 40,000 responses, they will name the first after the summer.

Diver investigates Magic Seaweed in Kimmeridge Bay marine reserve, Dorset

A diver investigates magic seaweed in Kimmeridge Bay marine reserve, Dorset.
Photograph: Christine Roberts/Alamy

“The richly varied habitats in our seas support thousands of plants and animals, from sea horses to basking sharks,” says Joan Edwards, the Wildlife Trusts’ head of living seas. “We are frustrated by the lack of progress on MCZs: our seas are in urgent need of protection.”

But the debate over how much of the coastline deserves protection has now turned into a full-blown row, with environment minister Richard Benyon saying: “If you are going to stop people doing things that impact on their livelihoods, you have to have a damn good reason to do it. I get frustrated by populist campaigns that say it is 127 or bust: that is ridiculous. It is banal to suggest that MCZs are the only show in town; there are many other forms of protection.” Benyon said scientists arguing for 127 MCZs were the same ones advising him there was not enough evidence to designate them.

But Prof Callum Roberts of York University, one of 86 environmental academics who wrote in protest to Benyon in April, rejects that as “spin” and a “misleading excuse”. Roberts said the scientific assessment Benyon is referring to was never meant to be a means of preventing progress.

“Science is being misrepresented and a political decision is being dressed up as a scientific one,” Roberts says. “Ministers are quite willing to cave in to industry nonsense that it will cost millions and cost jobs, but such claims have rarely stood up in the past: often the establishment of protected zones has economic benefits.”

“People are surprised at how colourful our marine life is,” says Julie Hatcher, marine biologist at the Dorset Wildlife Trust. “They think it will be grey and boring, but we have amazing marine life here.” The proposed Kimmeridge Bay MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone is not one of the 31 under consideration for designation in 2013. Hatcher thinks it should be: “I hope it will get on to the next list – if there is a next list.”

Source: The Guardian, 11th August 2013. For the full text, see

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