Huge support for marine protection

Tuesday 22nd January 2013

Sunlight shallows cpt Paul NaylorSunlight shallows cpt Paul Naylor

A huge wave of public support will shake Westminster today as a quarter of a million people call for greater protection for UK’s seas and coastline.

250,000 signatures on The Wildlife Trusts’ 'Petition Fish' will be presented to Natural Environment Minister, Richard Benyon at a Parliamentary reception at the House of Commons.

We’d like to encourage the public to respond to the Government’s consultation.   The public can help us ensure that the 31 sites that the Government have selected are only the start

 

A new report published today highlights the socio-economic benefits to be gained if the Government adopts a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around UK shores in 2013.  Our surrounding seas have an astonishingly varied range of submerged landscapes which support wonderful marine life: from cold water coral beds to sponge meadows, canyons and sandbanks.  MCZs were conceived to protect the plants, animals and habitats within them from the most damaging of activities, while mostly allowing sustainable activity to continue.

Securing the benefits of the Marine Conservation Zone Network was written by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research at Plymouth University and commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts.  Its publication coincides with The Wildlife Trusts’ event and with Defra’s current public consultation on MCZs (which closes on Sunday, 31 March). 

The report reveals that designating MCZs is likely to increase current benefits such as food security, resilience against environmental challenges and pollution at these sites and predicts that there would be potential additional benefits for commercial fishing, improved natural coastal protection and recreation.  It also highlights the importance of MCZs working together as a network and points out that non-designation of sites is likely to result in the deterioration in the services these places can deliver.

A newly released poll, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, highlights the extent of public support for greater marine protection.  89% said that in circumstances where sea life is threatened by commercial activity such as industrial fishing or dredging, priority should be given to protecting nature, even if this means putting restrictions on where commercial activities can take place. (See Editor’s Notes)

The Wildlife Trusts were disappointed that the full network of 127 recommended MCZs were not on the Government’s list published for public consultation in December. 

Today, The Wildlife Trusts are calling for:
• The Government to designate all 31 of the proposed MCZs in 2013 and enforce appropriate management in these sites as soon as possible.  31 Marine Conservation Zones are a step forward, but nowhere near enough for an ecological coherent network.
• The Government to set a clear timetable for the rest of the network to be designated.
• The sites identified by Natural England as being most under threat to be designated urgently.
• The evidence that the Government spent £5 million collecting last year (which has not yet been used) to be taken into account immediately, along with that collected by stakeholders in 2012.
• Proper protection of sites as soon as they are designated - including banning bottom-trawling and dredging in these areas.

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

“We’d like to encourage the public to respond to the Government’s consultation.   The public can help us ensure that the 31 sites that the Government have selected are only the start.  We need to ensure that the remaining sites are not forgotten.”

Simon King OBE, The Wildlife Trusts’ President, said:

“Whilst disappointed all 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones are not immediately being designated, we are heartened to hear the Government confirms it has every intention of designating 127 and more if necessary.  We understand that resources don’t allow this to happen in the first year - nonetheless the pressure is on.  Time is of the essence.  With every passing week, month, year, we are at risk of losing more of this precious resource.”

Go to www.wildlifetrusts.org/haveyoursay to respond to the consultation.

 Coryphella lineata cpt Trevor Rees

Petition Fish
The petition was signed by 249,859 people calling for greater marine protection in UK waters.  Supporters signed silver scales and stuck them onto fish, sea horses and other marine shapes.

Marine Conservation Zones
127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones were chosen after two years’ work by more than one million stakeholders from all sectors of the marine environment and at a cost of over £8.8 million to Government.  You can visit all these zones on our interactive map and see some of the wonders they are home to at www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZmap.

The network was designed to ensure that special marine landscapes do not become isolated and vulnerable, and to ensure that the wide range of marine habitats found in UK seas are protected.  Failure to designate all but a very small proportion of sites recommended by these stakeholders would mean that we lack the ecologically coherent network that our seas so badly need to recover.

In December 2012, Defra launched its public consultation and proposed to designate only 31 of the 127 sites recommended by a broad range of sea-users through its regional projects.

The new report, Securing the benefits of the Marine Conservation Zone Network, was written by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research at Plymouth University.  The assessment was carried out in two ways: by analysing the provision of beneficial ecosystem services and processes available in the entire recommended MCZ network (of 127 sites) and by doing a more detailed analysis of four case study recommended MCZs.  These four sites were analysed to identify the changes in beneficial ecosystem services and processes under four different management scenarios: do nothing, recover, maintain, and improve. 

The report reveals that:

• MCZ designation is likely to improve the beneficial ecosystem services available at MCZs, eg food security, resilience against environmental challenges and pollution – looking specifically at four case studies: Torbay (off Devon), Holderness Inshore (off Yorkshire), Kingmere (off Sussex), and North of Celtic Deep (in the Irish Sea).  These ecosystem services, in turn, support activities of social and economic importance such as fishing, tourism and recreation.

• In all four case studies it was predicted that there would be potential additional benefits for commercial fishing, improved natural coastal protection, and increased opportunities for nature-watching and tourism while accepting that some commercial fisheries could possibly experience initial short-term disadvantage before longer-term benefits were seen.

• If these benefits of MCZ designation were copied across all recommended MCZ sites, the benefits of designating the entire network of 127 recommended sites are anticipated to be significant.  MCZs working together in a network would play an instrumental role in the delivery of ecosystem service benefits and their socio-economic value.  Therefore, designation of an ecologically coherent network as a whole is likely to bring greater benefits than the designation of a few isolated sites.

• Non-designation of sites is likely to result in the deterioration of the beneficial ecosystem services at MCZ sites.  It could also have an adverse impact on the potential to deliver ecosystem services on a wider scale.

Marine poll results published
Recently, The Wildlife Trusts asked a leading polling organisation, ICM, to conduct a UK-wide survey on attitudes to our seas and their protection.  ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,101 adults aged 18+ in UK via telephone in 2012.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at www.icmresearch.com

Here’s what they had to say in across the UK:

People like to spend time near the sea – it means a lot to them
72% of participants had spent at day at the seaside during the preceding 12 months and 80% said that the UK’s seas are important to their personal quality of life.

Healthy seas are important– they provide a range of valuable services
96% of people rated the health* of the marine environment as important.  95% said that the sea is important as a source of food, 91% that it is important for recreation; and 97% that it is important as a habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Our seas are not as healthy as they once were
70% felt that there are fewer fish in the sea than there were 20 years ago.

Our seas are in desperate need of protection
On average, participants thought that 21% of the UK’s sea area is already protected in Marine Reserves. On average, participants felt that 56% of our seas should be protected in Marine Reserves.

And this protection should be valued above other activity
89% stated that in circumstances where sea life is threatened by commercial activity such as industrial fishing or dredging, priority should be given to protecting nature, even if this means putting restrictions on where commercial activities can take place.

* Health was explained as the quality of the water, the condition of the natural habitats and the well-being of wildlife.

Tagged with: Living Seas