We welcome the announcement by the Government of the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), but proper investment in their management and monitoring must be made if they are to benefit both people and wildlife.
About 21,000 people took part in last summer’s Marine Conservation Society (MCS) campaign, urging Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to be ambitious and designate 41 sites offered for public consultation at the time.
The new MCZs include inshore and offshore areas around the coast, and will protect a range of marine wildlife. A wide variety of habitats will also be protected.
This is great news for marine wildlife and we are delighted that the Government has approved the protection of these special marine areas.
The UK has a growing network of more than 300 marine protected areas, but the government must now invest in proper management of these sites and keep them free of all activities that damage the seabed so that our spectacular marine wildlife can recover from decades of destruction and degradation.
These new offshore sites present exciting opportunities to include Highly Protected Marine Areas, where all activities, like dredging, are kept out and species of commercially important fish, and the habitats they depend on, can properly recover and flourish.
Evidence about the importance of the many of these new MCZs was gathered by divers from Seasearch, the volunteer dive programme coordinated by us, and was presented to Defra to inform their decisions.
The designation of the 41 is only half the battle. We will now be working to achieve proper management of all marine protected areas and will be engaging with Defra to ensure that conservation policies and regulations are fit for purpose.
We will also continue to collect seabed data and work with local communities.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt