Protection for seas off Isle of Man

Wednesday 12th October 2011

Dahlia anemone cpt Paul NaylorDahlia anemone cpt Paul Naylor

The Wildlife Trusts have welcomed the news that Ramsey Bay has been designated as the Isle of Man's first Marine Nature Reserve. The area will be protected from damaging activities, fisheries will be safeguarded and it will become a centre for marine tourism and research.

This designation by the Manx Government is a prime example of what can be achieved in protecting marine environments.  It is the first step towards the goal of a well managed ecologically coherent network covering all UK and Manx waters by 2012.

In England, 127 Marine Conservation Zones have been recommended to Government by four specially appointed regional stakeholder groups.  The Wildlife Trusts believe the next step should be for all 127 sites to be designated.

The regional stakeholder 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 Ramsey Bay designation is an encouraging sign. It’s now important that Government appoints further MCZs according to the network recommendations in England.  A strong and complete network of MPAs must be presented to the public by the Government next year.

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.  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. The Wildlife Trusts are running a campaign to gain public support for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), called Petition Fish.

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 in England to public consultation in summer 2012.

The Wildlife Trusts are also calling for the Welsh and Scottish governments to bring forward new proposals for Marine Protected Areas.  And in Northern Ireland we continue to call for new legislation that will allow designation of national MPAS.

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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.
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.