Why do we need Marine Conservation Zones?

With the Government currently consulting on creating 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), marine biologist Emily Cunningham explains why MCZs are so important for our seas.
Without Marine Conservation Zones, some of our most special places at sea would have no protection, leaving some of our most precious marine wildlife - from endangered seahorses to fragile sea fans - at risk.

What are Marine Conservation Zones?

Marine Conservation Zones are a type of protected area in English seas. They are put in place to protect special areas of the seabed and the marine wildlife that lives there.

So far, we have 50 Marine Conservation Zones in place in English waters. Collectively, these sites cover 20,425 km2 – and although that sounds a lot, it’s only 8.4% of our seas.   

Why are they needed?

Our seas are in crisis. Ever increasing marine development, pollution, damaging fishing practices and climate change means our seas are under greater pressure than ever before.

Some of our marine habitats and wildlife are more vulnerable to these pressures than others and need protection. One of the ways we can protect these vulnerable seabed habitats and wildlife, such as seagrass meadows, pink sea fans and Maerl beds, is through the creation of protected areas at sea.

Long-snouted seahorse

Long-snouted seahorse ©Alex Mustard/2020VISION

Real Protection for our Wildlife

Designating a Marine Conservation Zone is only the first step towards protecting the precious wildlife and habitats within. Active management is required to make sure our MCZs are doing the job for which they were created, including the banning of certain damaging activities.

Work to date has focussed on the management of MCZs created in 2013, known as Tranche 1 MCZs. Where needed, management measures are now in place for all of these inshore Tranche 1 MCZs in England, benefitting wildlife from seahorses to honeycomb worm reefs. Work still needs to be done to properly manage the MCZs created in 2016 (Tranche 2 MCZs), as well as our offshore MCZs.

Common sunstar on maerl

Common sunstar on maerl ©Alexander Mustard/2020VISION

Is the MCZ network complete?

No. Huge gaps remain in the network, leaving many rare and vulnerable species and habitats unprotected. We, along with the Government’s own Scientists, believe we need more MCZs – and we need YOUR help to make sure the Government listens.

How can I help?

We are in the middle of a Government consultation on creating 41 more Marine Conservation Zones in English seas. We know that public support plays a vital role in the Government’s final decision, so we need each and every person that loves the sea to act today. 

Join our Wave of Support and add your voice to our campaign, calling for the Government to create all 41 of the newly proposed Marine Conservation Zones and taking us one step closer to securing the future of our seas. 

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