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Our seas are suffering serious damage and need protection now, according to Dorset Wildlife Trust, in response to today’s ministerial statement on Marine Conservation Zones.
The statement announces the Government’s intention to gather further evidence on the 127 Marine Conservation Zones recommended by stakeholder groups. These recommendations were the result of consultation with more than one million stakeholders including fishermen, conservationists and businesses. The process has cost around £8.8million to date. The groups made their recommendations based on the ‘best available evidence’ as advised by Defra in 2010. The process of gathering additional evidence is expected to delay designation of Marine Conservation Zones by at least a year.
Delayed timeframes could cause considerable risk
Dorset Wildlife Trust believes all 127 sites, including eight in Dorset, should be designated. Today’s statement, made by Natural Environment and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, promises all 127 sites will be consulted on. However, there is no indication of when, or how many might be designated. Dorset Wildlife Trust fears the delayed timeframe could put marine species and habitats at considerable risk of further degradation. The recommended sites in Dorset are: Poole Rocks, for native oysters and the rare fish Couch’s goby; Studland Bay, for short-snouted seahorses and undulate rays; South Dorset, an important chalk reef over 6 miles from shore; Broad Bench to Kimmeridge Bay for peacock’s tail seaweed and lagoon sea snail; South of Portland, including the special Portland Deep canyon; Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges for oysters and pink sea fan corals; South East of Portland Bill a tiny area for blue mussels; The Fleet for its lagoon habitat and wildlife.
Dorset Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Simon Cripps said: “We are disappointed by the Minister’s decision to consult yet again on all 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English waters. Despite overwhelming evidence for the urgent need to protect our seas, and despite England being so far behind Europe and many developing countries such as Mauretania, in setting up protected areas, the Minister’s statement will result in further unacceptable delay.
More than just science
“Stakeholders have been discussing Marine Conservation Zone recommendations for more than two years, based on Defra’s own 2010 guidance to use ‘best information currently available’. Now Defra is changing the goal-posts, after stakeholders have made their recommendations. It appears that government is hiding behind science to delay or avoid setting up protected areas already agreed by local communities. This is a social issue not just science and in any case the 127 sites are required to meet Natural England’s criteria on what a scientifically valid network is. We want designations not delays!”
The Wildlife Trusts’ Petition Fish campaign aims to raise public support for Marine Protected Areas at sea. To find out more visit our website.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Simon Cripps at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 07500 104759 pr 01305 264620.
About Dorset Wildlife Trust www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
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Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) wildlifetrusts.org
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.
Studland Bay is one area of significant importance - photo by Dorset Wildlife Trust
There is an array of marine wildlife that needs to be protected as well as habitats, such as this Spiny Seahorse - photo by Emma Rance