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Protecting our Seas

23 September 2011 | Posted in Marine

Author Erin Pettifer

short-snouted seahorse / Paul Naylor
short-snouted seahorse / Paul Naylor

The week before last, things in the marine conservation world took a big step forward! All of England’s recommended Marine Conservation Zones (a new type of Marine Protected Area) went to the statutory nature conservation bodies for assessment. These recommendations are the result of two years hard work by four groups of stakeholders, each responsible for assessing a different section of England’s coastline and seas.

We’re in the midst of an incredibly exciting time here in the UK, with our governments having committed to establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas off our coasts by the end of 2012. At last, recognition that the species and habitats hidden in our seas need just as much protection as those we can see on land!

It really is an unprecedented time and an opportunity that needs to be grabbed with both hands. Although the government has made this commitment, now is not the time to sit back and rest on our laurels! The Wildlife Trust’s have been pushing wildlife interests throughout the site selection but there has been strong opposition from some very powerful lobbies. Already this has affected which sites have been put forward and which ones have been lost from the network or reduced in size.

127 sites have been recommended and we need to apply pressure to ensure that these are actually designated and effectively managed and monitored, including the vital Reference Areas. These latter sites are probably what most people envisage when they think of Marine Protected Areas, being the only areas where all extraction, deposition and human disturbance will be prevented. They will be genuine havens for our marine wildlife, enabling recovery.

All the other sites in the network will be specifically managed for the feature they’re protecting, to greater or lesser degrees. For example, dredging and trawling, which suck or tear up the marine life in the areas they move through, could be allowed in some Marine Conservation Zones.

Please add your voice to our Marine Protected Area campaign by visiting www.wildlifetrusts.org/petitionfish

- your support really could make all the difference.

As a taster, see the photos below for some of the wonderful wildlife we have in the recommended Marine Conservation Zones sites off Sussex...

Kingmere rMCZ: A small spider crab covered by sponges on boulders covered in hydrozoan and bryozoan turf and some encrusting sponges on Kingmere reef. Copyright: Chris Williams / Seasearch

Selsey rMCZ: A vibrantly coloured nudibranch on red algae covering the rocky outcrops off Selsey. Copyright: Chris Williams / Seasearch

Beachy Head West rMCZ: An inquisitive tompot blenny off Seaford, within the Beachy Head West rMCZ chalk gullies and ridges. Copyright: Chris Williams / Seasearch

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