41 new Marine Conservation Zones

Author // Lucy Babey Categories // Whale & Dolphin General News

41 new Marine Conservation Zones

41 new Marine Conservation zones are welcomed by the conservation sector but they need proper management and collaboration from the Government

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have today announced 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, nearly doubling the number in waters around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These new sites include proposed areas in the Irish Sea, but the Scottish Government have delayed a public consultation for further Marine Protected Areas for 4 years, and Wales is yet to announce its own plans.  

The expanded network of Marine Protected Areas is a welcomed step forward, but 11 charities co-ordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link, have warned that ‘without effective management and well-resourced enforcement these sites will be little more than ‘paper parks’ and sea life will continue to decline’.

Earlier this month, in the Sustainable Seas report carried out by the Environment Audit Committee, the lack of protection in these areas was criticised, and outlined concerns that the  ‘Government is doing little more than putting lines on a map’. There are still little restrictions on destructive activities and harmful actions in these protected areas.

The Sustainable Seas Report coincided with the UN IPBES biodiversity report which showed the shocking impact human activity can have on the biodiversity of our marine ecosystems. Earlier this month the UK Marine Strategy sadly showed that we are facing an ocean emergency which is putting our whales, dolphins, porpoises and all marine life at risk. The UK is failing to meet more than two-thirds of the 15 indicators needed for a healthy ocean. This failure is a wakeup call for us all. Our oceans are unhealthy and we must make change for the better to protect them. We have the opportunity to save our seas from biodiversity loss.

The new Marine Protected Areas go some way to protecting for the future, but they must be managed properly with collaboration from the Government. To ensure this, conservation charities have issued a challenge and are calling on the Government to:

  • Ensure effective management is put in place by the end of 2019 to ensure the sites don’t become ‘paper parks’ – protected on paper but with business as usual in reality. This is a concern shared by the cross-party Environment Audit Committee
  • Commit to regular monitoring of Marine Protected Areas to better understand trends and ensure these areas are truly being protected and enhanced, and increase enforcement in these areas to prevent harmful fishing practices in ‘protected’ zones
  • Provide ring-fenced monitoring and enforcement funds for Marine Protected Areas from central Government rather than relying on over-stretched public bodies to deliver funding

ORCA are part of the 11 charities co-ordinated by Wildlife and Country Link and continue to work with Government and other NGO’s to ensure our seas and the amazing animals that call them home, are protected for future generations.