A watered down promise, Marine Conservation in the UK
“Watering down their pledge to protect our seas” a recent Environmental Committee gathering questions the government’s commitment on marine protection. Are they implementing them or are they just ideas on paper?
Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) are zones of marine ecosystem and biodiversity which exists alongside other areas such as Sights of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Special Areas of Conservation. All MCZs are vital for the conservation of our rare, threatened and even endangered endemic habitats and species such as Seahorses and native coral reefs.
2013 was a turning point for marine conservation with 27 MCZ being allocated along the coastlines across the UK with a further 37 zones to be created by 2015. NGO’s and various stakeholders and biodiversity specialists however, have in fact recommended over 127 zones that need vital protection.
MP’s are now stating that the UK government is being lazy and have a ‘lack of commitment’ when handling marine protection policies, by almost “watering down their pledge to protect our seas” as mentioned by a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have since held a stakeholder meeting to suggest the second tranche of sites for further consideration in the hopes that they will be implemented in the near future.
Many marine ecosystems and populations are already battling other issues such as eutrophication (the addition of both or either natural or anthropogenic compounds) from sewage and agricultural runoff as well the sea floor and reef bed ecosystems being damaged from destructive fishing methods. So it is important that these MCZs come into action before ecosystems and species are lost.
MCZs – Do they actually work?
There are many examples globally to suggest that they actually do work! An example is the Soufriere Marine Management Areas (SMMA) located in St Lucia. Areas along the coast were sectioned into fishing, recreational and marine reservation zones. Its design was to benefit the local economy and public whilst ensuring the protection and minimal damage of the local fish population and ecosystems. Although this was conducted on the small scale, SMMAs example demonstrates that marine reserves can stimulate conservation in a way that works.
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