The Wildlife Trusts have published a new report urging the Government to fulfil its promised creation of a connected network of protected marine areas around the UK’s coast.
Two tranches of Marine Conservation Zones have been designated so far, leading to 50 protected areas in English waters, including 14 offshore protected areas. Wales and Northern Island have one each, with a further four currently being considered for Irish waters. Scotland currently has 30 equivalent Marine Protected Areas, with 13 in offshore waters.
Two marine habitats already protected. The Cromer Shoal Chalk Reef (photo: Rob Spray) and brittle stars in Farnes East Marine Conservation Zone (photo: JNCC)
These designated areas have already led to a large jump in protection for a wide range of marine habitats and species. There was very little interest in UK protected marine areas before these designations. However, including all types of marine protection (such as European wide Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation), only 4 % of the UK’s waters are currently protected. When the Marine and Coastal Act was launched in 2009 (this is the legislation which started the creation of Marine Conservation Zones and Marine Protected Areas), the Government promised a connected network of protected areas within our seas, which will put the UK at the forefront of marine conservation.
The third and final tranche of English Marine Conservation Zones are being considered during 2017 and designated in 2018. As yet, we do not know how many areas are being considered and/or will be designated. The Wildlife Trusts report provide a list of 48 areas, which if designated would ‘complete an ecologically coherent network of special places where habitats and wildlife can flourish to safeguard healthy and productive seas for the future’.
As John Edwards, the head of the Wildlife Trusts Living Seas campaign said ‘The government designated 50 zones in the first two phases. Unfortunately, this does not provide us with the really comprehensive network needed to enable marine wildlife to thrive once more. We need a sensible number, in the best locations and with the right degree of connectivity between areas. We hope that the government will aim high and hit the 48 mark for this last phase. If the government lives up to its stated commitments such a network would put us at the forefront of worldwide marine conservation’.
The 48 areas suggested by the Wildlife Trust, will fill current gaps and create a ‘blue-belt’ around the English coast. The proposed areas range from seagrass beds in the south which are home to several types of seahorses, to deep sea mud habitats, harbouring sea pens and lobsters.
Seagrass in the UK (photo: Paul Kay)
The Wildlife Trust: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/2016/09/30/new-report-calls-48-new-protected-areas-sea
Scottish Government: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/mpanetwork
UK MPAS: http://www.ukmpas.org/faq.html
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/bluebelt-marine-conservation-areas-seas-coast-wildlife-trusts-a7338191.html
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