Posted: Friday 8th June 2012 by Joan
Spiny starfish on maerl bed (Credit Paul Naylor)
As we celebrate our centenary and reflect on the pioneering work of our founder Charles Rothschild I can’t help but make comparisons. In 1915, after three years of work Rothschild had identified a list of 284 sites on land ‘worthy of protection’ which he recommended to Government. Nearly 100 years on the first ever network of recommended Marine Conservation Zones has been identified. It took over 34 years for the sites identified on Rothschild’s list to receive proper protection and within that time many of these were lost. I am keen that we do not repeat past mistakes, I am hopeful that we can seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to secure proper protection for our diverse marine habitats and species.
It has been two and a half years since the Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed. With it, came the promise of designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), to contribute to the creation of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
So how have we progressed towards this goal? Well so far we only have one designated MCZ- Lundy- and 127 recommended MCZs which are yet to be put forward for consultation by Government, despite being recommended by stakeholders in September 2011.
To achieve proper protection for our seas we need an ecologically coherent network of MPAs, made up of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Areas of Protection (SPAs) and MCZs. This network needs to be put in place urgently to stop degradation occurring. Designation of MCZs has already been delayed until 2013. It’s imperative we don’t allow this delay to continue.
I am feeling increasingly concerned that officials are focusing on designation of 25 percent of the seabed. The emphasis should be on a full suite of MCZs which provide protection to the full representation of habitats in English waters, ensuring that species are able to move between protected habitats. However, as I commented in November 2011, we believe Government may propose only 30 to 40 of these MCZs for designation. If this happens we won’t achieve a network that provides adequate protection for our marine environment. It will also be a waste of resources: to date £8.8m has been spent on the two year stakeholder consultation process. More than a million people have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort into establishing a consensus on the network of MCZs.
We need to ensure that Government recognises the need for 127 MCZs by showing them that this is also what society wants. This is where you can help. We need to demonstrate to government the level of public support there is for 127 MCZs being designated in 2013. To do this you can ‘become a friend ’ of your favourite MCZ, or the whole network. You will receive our monthly campaign bulletin to update you on progress and ask you to help with the campaign. In addition you can sign our Petition Fish campaign and encourage family and friends to do the same.