Consultation on Marine Conservation Zones around the UK coast is now live
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have finally announced the long anticipated consultation, into the designation of 23 proposed marine conservation zones (MCZs) around the UK coast, to protect important habitats and species. These newly proposed sites would cover more than 10,000 square kilometres of our oceans.
Marine Conservation Zones are a type of protected area of ocean where human activity is restricted to protect rare or important features from damaging activity.
The 23 proposed sites are from the second tranche in creating a network of protected areas around the United Kingdom. The first tranche had 27 sites, totalling 9,664 square kilometres, designated as marine conservation zones back in November 2013.
Unfortunately, the 23 sites is down from the 37 candidate sites that were originally announced last year. There are concerns the zones are missing key sites, putting both wildlife and habitats at risk including the spiny seahorse and seagrass meadows. Those which are not included in the consultation include sites in the Solent, offshore sites off Wales, Studland Bay and the majority of sites in the Irish Seas.
With the consultation now live, the government are seeking views on whether each of the 23 sites should become designated marine conservation zones. Response to the consultation is needed to ensure all 23 proposed sites are approved and designated to avoid the risk of long term ecological and economic damage.
Everyone interested in our oceans should provide their views by responding to the consultation so that we can be certain the ocean remains healthy and also productive for future generations. The designation of these sites will ensure we allow our seas time to recover and thrive after decades of neglect. The consultation will help the Government ensure sites with important species or geological features are protected, while also ensuring long-term economic security.
It is hoped that the sites will be designated within a year and a third tranche will then follow to complete an ecologically coherent network of sites.
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