*Edit: Consultation now closed for comments*
Emily works with The Wildlife Trusts (a national NGO) on their campaign to secure more and better managed Marine Conservation Zones and was asked to write a blog for the UK’s Wildlife and Countryside Link on why these 41 new MCZs are needed.
The UK Government ran a public consultation on whether to create 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the seas around England. The consultation closed on Friday 20 July 2018.
What are Marine Conservation Zones?
Marine Conservation Zones are a type of protected area in English seas. They are put in place to protect special areas of the seabed and the marine wildlife that lives there. So far, we have 50 Marine Conservation Zones in place in English waters. Collectively, these sites cover 20,425 km2 – and although that sounds a lot, it’s only 8.4% of our seas.
Why are they needed?
Our seas are in crisis. Ever increasing marine development, pollution, damaging fishing practices and climate change means our seas are under greater pressure than ever before.
Some of our marine habitats and wildlife are more vulnerable to these pressures than others and need protection. One of the ways we can protect these vulnerable seabed habitats and wildlife, such as seagrass meadows, pink sea fans and Maerl beds, is through the creation of protected areas at sea.
Without Marine Conservation Zones, some of our most special places at sea would have no protection, leaving some of our most precious marine wildlife – from endangered seahorses to fragile sea fans – at risk.
Real Protection for our Wildlife
Designating a Marine Conservation Zone is only the first step towards protecting the precious wildlife and habitats within. Active management is required to make sure our MCZs are doing the job for which they were created, including the banning of certain damaging activities.
Work to date has focussed on the management of MCZs created in 2013, known as Tranche 1 MCZs. Where needed, management measures are now in place for all of these inshore Tranche 1 MCZs in England, benefitting wildlife from seahorses to honeycomb worm reefs. Work still needs to be done to properly manage the MCZs created in 2016 (Tranche 2 MCZs), as well as our offshore MCZs.
Is the MCZ network complete?
No. Huge gaps remain in the network, leaving many rare and vulnerable species and habitats unprotected. I, along with the Government’s own Scientists, believe we need more MCZs – and I need YOUR help to make sure the Government listens.
How can I help?
We are in the home straight of a Government consultation on creating 41 more Marine Conservation Zones in English seas. We know that public support plays a vital role in the Government’s final decision, so we need each and every person that loves the sea to act today.
All you have to do is add your Wave of Support here. In doing so you will join over 10,000 other people that care about marine wildlife to call for the Government to create all 41 of the newly proposed Marine Conservation Zones, taking us one step closer to securing a healthy future of our seas.
Emily Cunningham, 16 July 2018 (Adapted)
This blog was originally published by Wildlife and Countryside Link in June 2018. See here.