Written by Dive Staff Monday, 17 December 2012 16:53
Anger mounts over UK marine protection zones announcement.
Beachy Head: only limited protection
Conservationists are fuming that the long campaign for marine protection zones around the UK has resulted in a government proposal to only set up 31 zones rather than the full network of 127 zones suggested by the government's own scientists.
This means that 37 sites deemed to be at severe risk will receive no protection and that instead of a linked network which would have covered 39,000 sq km we will have an area of less than a quarter of that protected.
For example Beachy Head East is not included in the proposed MPZs. This includes the reef complex of the Royal Sovereign Shoals and measures 193 sq km, contains seahorses and native oysters, and about nine different habitats. It was an area listed as a Sussex Inshore Site of Nature Conservation Importance in the 1980s. Local fishermen are in favour of designation.
But Beachy Head West is included. This is a small site from the shore to 250m out to sea that has never been trawled or damaged.
A spokesman for the Marine Conservation Society said: 'So while a larger, further offshore site to the east that should be protected now is ignored (because of its important vulnerable habitats, and threat from potential trawling), a much smaller (26km square) site adjacent to this to the west (Beachy Head West) that is protected by its natural shallow nature is ‘protected’.'
Another crucial site that has been left out is the Cape Bank offshore site just west of Lands End in Cornwall. It is large at 473km square, contains abundant reef habitat, rich in corals, sponges, and contains populations of the spiny lobster that is a biodiversity action plan species. It is one of the 59 threatened sites identified by Defra's scientists.
The Wildlife Trusts said it was 'bitterly disappointed by the lack of ambition'. Joan Edwards, at the Wildlife Trusts, said: 'When will further sites be designated? How can the government ensure that these recommended sites are not damaged in the coming years?' She said iconic sites such as Flamborough and Studland were missing from the government's list, and that the chalk reef at Cromer is unique to the UK and that species new to science were recently discovered there.