(Above) Seahorse by Julie Hatcher
Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is delighted by Defra’s announcement that Studland Bay is one of 37 new sites listed for possible protection, subject to a second round of Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designations, due for consultation in 2015.
Since 2009, DWT has been involved in raising awareness of the importance of the Bay amongst visitors and has found that an overwhelming majority are in favour of protecting the site from damaging activities, whilst enabling people to continue to visit and enjoy the area. There is no reason to believe that the designation would be anything but beneficial for considerate boat owners who would continue to enjoy the Bay. There should also be benefits for the tourism and fishing industries in the area.
One of the most significant wildlife sites in the county
Julie Hatcher, DWT’s Marine Awareness Officer, said: “This is great news for Dorset. Studland Bay is one of the most significant wildlife sites in the county and is nationally important as the only known breeding ground for both the spiny and short-snouted seahorse. The Bay is also home to a rich variety of species such as the native oyster. The extensive seagrass meadows provide a nursery area for commercially important fish, and also probably for the endangered undulate ray.”
The first step towards an ecologically coherent network
In November 2013, The Wildlife Trusts welcomed Defra’s designation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones, the first step towards the creation of an ecologically coherent network so vital to ensure the healthy future of our seas. At that time, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice also announced plans to designate two more phases of MCZs over the next three years to complete the Government’s contribution to a network of marine protected areas.
Marine Conservation Zones are vital to protect and restore the marine environment. “Such areas,” adds Julie, “are one of the best tools to protect marine wildlife effectively and restore our seas to their full potential, following decades of neglect and decline.”
Help us support the designation for the benefit of people and wildlife
Consultation on this second phase is expected to be launched in early 2015. Dorset Wildlife Trust will be strongly supporting the designation as it will benefit people, wildlife and livelihoods in the area.
For more information about MCZs and how to become an MCZ friend, click here.