UK’s leading marine charity says announcement is an encouraging step towards network of protection.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says the announcement by Defra that it’s designating a further 23 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English seas, is a really positive step in achieving a genuine network of marine protection around the country’s coast.
Among the newly created MCZs are Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds – the longest chalk reef known in Europe; Farnes East – one of the deepest patches of the North Sea, reaching to between 30-100 metres in depth; Greater Haig Fras – the only substantial area of rocky reef in the Celtic Sea and Mounts Bay covering St Michael’s Mount and the Marazion area – home to important species such as seagrass, stalked jellyfish and crayfish.
The new sites bring the total number of MCZs in English sites to 50.
Although it’s still some way off the original number proposed by the Government’s scientific advisors, sea users and conservation groups five years ago, MCS says it’s pleased that the Government appears to be sticking to its commitment to develop a full network of sites, in addition to these 50, with a third and final consultation and designation process due during 2017/18.
Melissa Moore, MCS Head of Policy, says the creation of these latest MCZs marks a step forward in stemming an alarming decline in England’s rich marine biodiversity: “Stunning habitats such as the chalk reefs near Cromer and deep water rocks at Farnes East will now be better protected for future generations as will iconic species such as the ocean quahog, pink sea fan and European eel.”
MCS says designation of sites is just the first step. It’s vital that they are well managed and damaging activities are prevented.
“We’re recommending that the final tranche in 2017 includes South Celtic Deep – a site that supports short-beaked common dolphin -Norris to Ryde, which is rich in seagrass meadows, Mud Hole off the north west coast – 35 metres deep and home to rare sea pens – and Compass Rose off the Yorkshire coast, which is an important spawning and nursery ground for herring and lemon sole. Once the full network is finally designated in 2018, we look forward to English seas beginning to recover from decades of damage,” says Melissa Moore.
Cromer Shoals MCZ – Norfolk – designated January 2015
This beautiful seascape is thought to be Europe’s longest chalk reef – stretching 20 miles/30 km – but it’s one of England’s least well known. Its highlights are dramatic features sculpted during the ice age; walls and plateaus over 2m high. Animal filled niches, tunnels and ledges and verdant seaweed flourish in the shallow inshore waters. Chalk features are soft encrusted, colonized and burrowed by hundreds of species including Norfolk’s signature crabs and lobsters.
Chalk is relatively soft and can therefore be damaged. MCZ status will ensure that damaging activities won’t happen in this site, but will allow low impact activities to continue.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting our seas, shores and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide, the Good Fish Guide and Fishonline on sustainable seafood, as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch. www.mcsuk.org.