Marine Protected Area recommendations revealed

Thursday 8th September 2011

Paul Naylor

As stakeholder recommendations for a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around England are today made public, The Wildlife Trusts remind the Government of its commitment to create a well managed ecologically coherent network covering at least 25% of English waters by 2016.

This ambitious - and achievable - target is set out in the recently published England Biodiversity Strategy, ‘Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services’, in which the Government proposes to reverse the decline of biodiversity in our seas and help to restore them to their full potential.

The Wildlife Trusts believe the Government must designate the vast majority of recommendations proposed by the appointed stakeholder groups to achieve its commitment. 27% of English waters would be covered if the entire network is designated.

The four regional groups were set up by Government, following the passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Act (MCAA) in 2009, to consult on where Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), a form of MPA, should be sited around England. The Wildlife Trusts have been actively involved in them all, providing local, regional and national expertise.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“The network recommendations mark a huge step in the right direction. This is the result of a great deal of hard work from many stakeholders. It is essential that this opportunity is not wasted. There are high expectations which need to be met. A strong and complete network of MPAs must be presented to the public by the Government next year. If it falters or fails in its designation, there’s no doubt it will fall short of reaching its own target.

MPAs are essential for the future of marine life, and The Wildlife Trusts are running a campaign to gain public support for them, called Petition Fish.

Currently, only 0.001% of the UK’s marine environment is fully protected from damaging activities. Fish stocks have collapsed and species including corals, seahorses, whales, seals and basking sharks have all suffered declines.

Research from around the world shows now is a critical moment for marine conservation, with extinction rates at an all-time high. Key scientists have published a report recommending the creation of MPAs for restoring and protecting significantly damaged marine ecosystems[1]. Protection of key marine areas from damaging activities is one vital element in achieving the Government’s own vision of ‘productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’ and turning around decades of decline.

Joan Edwards continued:

“True sustainability in the marine environment will be achieved only if we create a substantial network of MPAs across our seas; areas which work together to provide protection for the full range of habitats and species found in our waters.”

The Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) will put forward its own thoughts on an MPA network to public consultation in summer 2012.

Contact information:

Anna Guthrie (Media & PR Manager)
Office: 01636 670075 / Mobile: 07887 754659
Email: aguthrie@wildlifetrusts.org

Tanya Perdikou (Media & Campaigns Officer)
Office: 01636 670057 / Mobile: 07887 754657
Email: tperdikou@wildlifetrusts.org

Notes for editors:

1. The 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act (MCAA) contained a commitment to establish Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England’s seas. Four stakeholder groups, set up by Natural England (NE) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), have been developing ideas for where these should be. Groups contained representatives from a range of organisations including industry and NGOs. The groups looked at what is to be protected within them and how this protection might be achieved.

2. IPSO: Rogers, A.D. & Laffoley, D.d’A. 2011. International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts. Summary report. IPSO Oxford, 18 pp.
Recommendations:
Urgent actions to restore the structure and function of marine ecosystems, including the coordinated and concerted action in national waters and on the High Seas (the high seas water column and seabed Area beyond national jurisdiction) by states and regional bodies to: establish a globally comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity, to build resilience, and to ensure ecologically sustainable fisheries with minimal ecological footprint; Proper and universal implementation of the precautionary principle by reversing the burden of proof so activities proceed only if they are shown not to harm the ocean singly or in combination with other activities.