Stephen Eades – Year of the Citizen – Dec 16

If we create a nature reserve on land, say a woodland because there’s a particular type of tree there in which a rare bird build its nests, we do not then allow a timber company to come in and fell all the other trees, except the protected trees, for commercial gain.

Ecologically that would be regarded as an act of idiocy because it is the whole woodland that sustains the rare bird, and not just its nesting trees. Indeed it’s a no-brainer.

However for some absurd reason this same principle does not apply to Marine Conservation Zones.

In the Kingmere MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone, off West Sussex, where the rare Black Bream spawns and lays its eggs the Marine Management Organisation has just given a 15 year licence to two aggregate companies to remove a large part of the seabed for commercial gain. The MMO and Natural England have said its alright — the Black Bream will not be affected because there won’t be any dredging when the fish are spawning!

What hope is there for the future of marine conservation when these “expert” organisations arrive at such conclusions.

Indeed what hope is there for MCZsMCZ Marine Conservation Zone as a whole when they are treated in this contemptuous manner by both the regulators and commercial interests?

Have none of them heard about, let alone understood, the principle of ecosystem management?

You would think so because they write about it in their literature and publications. Only trouble is, they don’t know how to practice what they preach.

How deep does this malaise go?

You would think, for example, that the fisheries organisations and marine NGOs — all of whom protested to the MMO at the original idea of dredging Kingmere — would be up in arms, and turning to the courts for justice.

Wrong, none of them are interested. Indeed one said to Marinet that it didn’t want to contest the Kingmere decision because it might prejudice new MCZs being created in the future. Does that make sense to you?

It doesn’t to Marinet. But that’s the trouble — all these organisations, like government, seem to have forgotten the conservation principles they claim to uphold, and are now just bureaucracies looking after themselves whilst trying to persuade the ordinary citizen that they’re something different.

2016 proved one thing. It proved that the ordinary citizen knows his and her own mind. Each has a clear idea of what should and should not be, and in 2016 this fact was demonstrated very clearly.

So who will be the saviour of MCZs, not just this year, but next year and beyond?

Marinet is a small organisation, but it too knows its own mind and what defence of the marine world genuinely means. Its members are ordinary people, like you. Join us, and help fight this trashing of MCZs.

Believe in MCZs, and maybe 2017 can be a Year of the Citizen too.

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