Marine Conservation Zones - RYA encouraged by government approach

MCZ Defra Map, Dec 2012
The RYA has studied the consultation documentation following the Government’s announcement of the public consultation for Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and is encouraged by the approach the Government has taken.

Caroline Price RYA Planning and Environment Advisor 'The phased approach that Government is proposing appears on the face of it to be very sensible.

'The RYA has been resolute in insisting that a MCZ should be no larger than required to protect the habitats and wildlife features which it is intended to protect and that the scientific basis for designating a particular feature for protection should be sound.

'We are pleased therefore to see that Ministers have recognised that they need to have a strong evidence base when looking to designate sites, from both an ecological and socio-economic perspective

'We are particularly encouraged that the approach to highly protected sites is being reviewed as the proposals for Reference Areas are of great concern to us'.

Of the 31 sites proposed in the consultation for designation in 2013 the RYA has objections to only one of the sites: the Aln Estuary recommended MCZ contains a small charted anchorage in the one location in which a vessel can stay afloat at all states of the tide in the Estuary and we will be seeking to retain access to this resource.

The RYA does have on-going concerns about a number of other sites being considered for designation at some point in the future and is continuing in its discussions with Defra and the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) about these and will be highlighting them in its response to this consultation.

The RYA is broadly supportive of government plans to establish a coherent network of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Conservation Zones. However, it has fought throughout the process to date, and will continue to do so, to protect the public right of navigation and to ensure, as far as is possible, that recreational boating interests are not adversely affected by the designation of such MCZs.

'We mustn’t forget that this public consultation does not include the management measures that may be introduced once a site has been designated. Responses to this consultation therefore are confined only to the site boundaries and the conservation objectives for protected features' continues Caroline.

'This is why the issue of a strong evidence base is important at this stage because it will be on the basis of that evidence that the management measures will be devised in the future'.

'The omission of the detail of management measures from this consultation means that we still don’t really know what designation will actually mean to the local community'.

Management measures will be devised by regulators and public authorities such as the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), who should decide with local stakeholders how each of their conservation zones will be managed.

There is currently no information on how this will happen but the indications from the MMO are that voluntary measures will play a key role. Management measures could potentially place restrictions on certain activities in a MCZ and for recreational boating this may include restrictions on anchoring or the laying of race marks.

The RYA will be responding to the current public consultation and will focus on issues of safety of navigation and socio-economics together with impacts on recreational boating amenity. Individual clubs and members may have additional locally specific points covering a wide range of issues and the RYA would encourage them to provide this information directly to Defra for consideration by Government. The public consultation is open to everyone who wishes to respond and the full consultation document together with instructions on how to submit comments is available here.

Although this particular consultation seeks views on the 31 sites being recommended for designation in 2013, Defra would welcome comments on all other sites being considered. They are also keen to receive general comments, particularly in relation to the approach to Reference Areas.

Further information on the RYA’s response to this consultation is available on the RYA website.