By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer
At present, the Government is consulting on a third tranche of Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designations for England; all around the country local Wildlife Trusts are championing the proposed Zones in their region in order to gather support for their designation.
You may be wondering what it’s all about, why you should care, and how we got to this point.
The process began back in 2009, when the Government passed the Marine & Coastal Access Act, creating the legislation to establish MCZs, a special type of Marine Protected Area. Similarly to nature reserves, these protected areas would provide an area safe from damaging activities to allow the species and habitats to thrive and/or recover. MCZs are not, however, no-take zones or cordoned off areas: some activities are still allowed to occur, but fishing and other licensable activities are assessed as to whether they cause significant impact to the particular features of the site – and are excluded if they do.
Independent stakeholder groups were then set up to identify where these MCZs ought to be; sites were identified for particular features, including nationally important and representative marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. 127 sites were agreed by these groups and were passed to government advisory bodies in 2011.
In 2013, the first tranche of MCZs were designated, 27 of them in total. Here in Sussex, three sites were designated: Beachy Head West, Kingmere and Pagham Harbour. Subsequently, a further 23 sites were designated in the second tranche in 2016, including a further three sites in Sussex waters: Utopia, Offshore Overfalls and Offshore Brighton.
Many of these sites are now actively managed. Here in Sussex, it is the responsibility of the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) to review fishing activity within MCZs which fall within the 0 – 6 nautical mile area: they have a Marine Protected Area byelaw which protects these zones from damaging fishing activities.
We are now in the process of public consultation of the third tranche of MCZ designations, meaning that we are one step closer to achieving an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. There are three Sussex sites which are being consulted on and we need your help to support our campaign to get these sites designated and protected.
Healthy, wildlife-rich seas are not only valuable in their own right; they are fundamentally important for human health, wellbeing and prosperity. Healthy seas also contribute to flood management, water purification, tourism and coastal communities. Marine Conservation Zones are a hugely important tool in safeguarding these significant ecosystem goods and services – which is why we need to act now to afford protection to our precious marine environment.
For further information on MCZs in Sussex: click here.