UK government to create 31 MCZs

natural england logoNatural Environment Minister Richard Benyon has announced that the Government is pressing ahead with its plans to create 31 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)

A consultation to seek views on proposals for the designation of MCZs in English inshore and English and Welsh offshore waters has been launched and will give coastal communities and those with an interest in the marine environment, the opportunity to have a say in its future.

Launching the consultation, Richard Benyon said:

“The UK has one of the world’s richest marine environments, and we need to make sure it stays that way. This is why we are creating a network of marine protected areas.

“We have to get this right. Designating the right sites in the right places, so that our seas are sustainable, productive and healthy, and to ensure that the right balance is struck between conservation and industry.

“We have carefully considered the evidence, and these 31 sites are the ones that are suitable to be designated next year.”

However, the selection has not met with universal approval.  Jean-Luc Solandt, at the Marine Conservation Society, said ministers’ decision to ignore scientific advice was appalling. “It’s pitiful. We cannot delay protection. We wouldn’t stand by and let wildflower meadows and ancient forests be dug up and cleared, and yet heavy fishing gear is dragged across all kinds of habitats, destroying large swathes of the seabed with very little control.”

He said the fishing industry would benefit from large-scale protection zones where scallop dredging and bottom trawling was outlawed but fishing with fixed nets, pots and lines was allowed.

“You have to have evidence that stacks up or you will be up against judicial reviews [from the marine industry] and the European Commission,” said Benyon.

He said he was being criticised by both conservationists, who want more protected zones, and by the fishing and aggregates industry, who want very few: “That suggests I might be getting this just about right,” he said.

Designating MCZs to contribute to a network of Marine Protected Areas is a Government commitment under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The proposed sites will to contribute to a network of marine protected areas and will complement the 8.4% of UK waters and 24% of English inshore waters already within protected areas.


The consultation will run until 31 March 2013 and can be found here.

Four stakeholder-led Regional MCZ Projects were established to recommend the possible sites, their final reports can be viewed here.

Category: UK Government News

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