Richard Benyon MP, Minister in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), visited the Isle of Wight on Monday 25 March to hear the concerns of Islanders and others about the potential introduction of MCZs and their effect on the Isle of Wight.
Richard Benyon with John Pockett and others
John Pockett, a member of the Calshot Sailing Club, together with local harbourmasters and fishermen met with Benyon prior to the public meeting.
They talked in particular about management measures for a designated MCZs and how they could impact on the safety of navigation for recreational boaters.
John Pockett said 'Recreational boaters value this beautiful Solent environment and are very conscious of the need to protect it. We therefore support the principle of marine conservation zones that have a sound evidence base.
'We do believe that it will be possible for the Solent’s stakeholders to reach agreement on how MCZs are managed around the Island, should they be taken forward at some point in the future, but only when government provides us with the fundamental principles upon which the management plans will be devised.
'We must not compromise the safety of boating. There are safety concerns about each of the four proposed Solent MCZs that will need to be resolved if they go forward for designation.
'Just as marine species need a network of safe havens between which they can move, so do small boats'.
Reports from the public meeting suggest that the Minister came across as someone who clearly knew his subject and was prepared to listen.
He opened by highlighting that the whole exercise was 'to change the way that we plan in the marine environment'; that management measures had to be 'intelligent and proportionate'; that in deciding whether sites would be designated the socio economic aspects were a key part of the equation; and that the only way forward had to be by mutual agreement rather than just legislation’.
At both the private and public meetings the Minister stressed that he was not interested in blanket bans on activities in MCZs, but wanted well thought out local plans that minimised restrictions on activities, whilst benefiting environmental features.
DEFRA are undertaking a public consultation, ending this Sunday 31st March 2013, seeking views on the proposals for the designation of 31 MCZs in English inshore and offshore waters. None of the proposed MCZs around the Isle of Wight are included in this current consultation.
The RYA is responding to this public consultation and is focusing on issues of safety of navigation and socio-economics together with impacts on recreational boating amenity.
You can read more about Marine Conservation Zones on the RYA website, www.rya.org.uk/infoadvice/planningenvironment/marineconservation/Pages/MarineConservationZones.aspx