Coral reefs, jellyfish and seahorses are just some of the marine life that will be better protected following the creation of 27 new Marine Conservation Zones today.
The UK has one of the world’s richest marine environments and these new sites will join over 500 marine protected areas that already exist to ensure it stays that way.
The MCZs will cover an area roughly three times the size of Wiltshire and will span the waters around the English coast. The sites will be protected from damaging activities to ensure their features are conserved.
Marine Environment Minister George Eustice has also announced plans to designate two more phases of MCZs over the next three years to complete our contribution to a network of marine protected areas. A consultation on the next phase is expected to be launched in early 2015.
Making the announcement, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said:
We are doing more than ever to protect our marine environment. Almost a quarter of English inshore waters and nine per cent of UK waters will now be better protected.
These Marine Conservation Zones will safeguard a wide range of precious sea life from seahorses to oyster beds and our ambitions do not end there.
This is just the beginning, we plan two further phases over the next three years and work to identify these will begin shortly.
These new sites will make a valuable contribution to conserving marine life around our coast and will provide greater protection for around 8,000 sq km of offshore and around 2,000 sq km of inshore waters.
Following a thorough consultation, it has been decided that four sites will not be designated in this phase. A decision has been made not to designate the sites at Stour and Orwell and Hilbre Island. A final decision will be made on whether to designate the proposed Hythe Bay site early next year and we will consider the North of Celtic Deep site in the next phase.
Action will be taken to ensure that the new sites are properly protected from damaging activities, taking into account local needs. Restrictions will differ from site to site depending on what features the site intends to protect. Activities, for example fishing, will only be regulated if they cause harm to wildlife or damaging habitats that are being conserved in the MCZ.
Designating MCZs to contribute to a network of Marine Protected Areas is a Government commitment under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to ensure that our marine environment is protected for years to come.
George Eustice added:
It is important to remember MCZs are only one piece of the jigsaw.
Over 500 marine protected areas already exist around the UK. Together with MCZs these sites will help safeguard our rich marine environment and keep our seas sustainable, healthy and productive for future generations.
Please click here for more information on the new sites.