England's first Marine Conservation Zones announced

Flame Shell
Graham Saunders
DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has announced today (21 November) the creation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England.

The 27 MCZs include areas such as Pagham Harbour, Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries, the Tamar Estuary and the Folkestone Pomerania. A full list of the 27 MCZs can be found on the Defra website.

Paul Rayner, RYA member and member of the RYA’s Planning and Environment Committee attended the announcement made by DEFRA in London said 'They have simply designated the areas for Marine Conservation Zones at this stage. Nothing was announced as to what management measures would be put in place for each MCZ that may restrict activity. These will be decided by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in partnership with the stakeholders at a local level'.

DEFRA is clear that 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. It states that activities will only be regulated if they cause harm to wildlife or damaging habitats that are being conserved in the MCZ.

DEFRA has indicated that socio-economic factors (which include leisure boating) are a consideration and that it was the balance between these and the ecological importance of an area which led to the Stour and Orwell not being designated as MCZs.

The RYA is pleased that Defra has acknowledged that they should have been clearer from the outset with regard to management measures and that it is looking to take the lessons learned on this point forward into future tranches.

Making the announcement, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said: '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'. A consultation on the next phase is expected to be launched in early 2015.

The full list of the 27 designated marine conservation zones can be found on the DEFRA website.
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