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New conservation zones for UK seas

The Ecologist

21st November 2013

The UK Government has announced 27 new Marine Conservation Zones covering an areas three times the size of Wiltshire.

Our seas have been in a state of serious decline due to mismanagement for decades; this announcement is a welcome but long overdue step .

The new Marine Conservation Zones or MCZs will be protected from damaging activities - fishing for example - but only as required to ensure their special features and species are conserved. Coral reefs, jellyfish and seahorses are just some of the marine life that will be better protected.

Making the announcement, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said: "We are doing more than ever to protect our marine environment. Almost a quarter of English inshore waters and nine per cent of UK waters will now be better protected.

"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. We plan two further phases over the next three years and work to identify these will begin shortly."

Four proposed MCZs are not designated in this phase, at Stour, Orwell, Hilbre Island and Hythe Bay. A final decision on the latter site will be made early next year and the North of Celtic Deep site will be considered in the next phase.

Dr Iwan Ball, WWF-UK marine programme manager, said: "Our seas have been in a state of serious decline due to mismanagement for decades; this announcement is a welcome but long overdue step towards reversing this decline and protecting our nationally important habitats and species.

"However, more needs to be done to secure the long-term future of our marine environment. These sites need to be accompanied by appropriate management measures and resourcing and additional action needs to be taken urgently to achieve an ecologically coherent network of sites to protect our best-loved marine wildlife such as cetaceans, basking sharks and seabirds."

In June this year a 350,000 petition pledge supporting the designation of MCZs was handed in to Downing Street by leading conservation charities, including WWF UK, calling on the Government to take swift and effective action.


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