I hate to end the week on a sour note, but yesterday's announcement about Marine Conservation Zones was hugely disappointing.
For over a decade, many NGOs and hundreds of thousands of people supported the campaign to get comprehensive legislation for the marine environment. This ultimately received cross-party support and led to the passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009).
Our expectation was that this would lead to the establishment of an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas. Yet, of 127 sites proposed for protection, only ‘up to’ 31 are recommended for designation in 2013, and there appears to be no clear commitment to any further rounds of designation.
Less than half of the 57 sites identified by the Government’s own advisors as being at high risk are to be progressed, the others in many cases being excluded on the basis that the economic implications of designation are perceived to outweigh the conservation benefits. Many of these sites may therefore be lost. This news needs to be looked at alongside our inability to establish a network of marine protected areas of European importance (under the Birds and Habitats Directives).
We, and no doubt those that supported the marine campaign, feel let down by yesterday's announcement.
I understand Mr Benyon's desire to get this right, but seabirds and other marine wildlife are in trouble. As I have written previously here, here and here, they need something more than is currently being offered. And arugably, developers at sea need these sites identified fast to help provide provide certainty about the most appropriate sites for development.
The coalition Government’s commitment to achieve a ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas now looks undeliverable. We will examine the consultation in detail, including the lamentable attention given to the protection of seabirds and other ‘mobile species’.
What do you think of government's announcement about marine conservation zones?
It would be great to hear your views.
Its the short term - and even more so politics - rather than the economy that is the problem: to reduce pressure you have to reduce fishing effort and everything is against that - technology means that fewer fisherman already produce more effort, if not more fish because fish numbers continue to plummet. The end game at the moment is no fish, no fishermen and no wildlife. On its record to date its not surprising this Government have neither the will nor the courage to break the cycle of decline.
The underlying problem is we still mine rather than steward our fish stocks - on land its logging versus forestry. Thinking in the language of forestry, which centres around sustained yield - making sure you don't cut more than is growing up - I wonder what the sustained yield of our fisheries would be ? It would certainly be spectacularly higher than it is today - and on a worldwide scale would be part of the answer to food security. However, what foresters are all too well aware of is that if you start over-cutting you very quickly sink into a downward spiral - the trees you are cutting are smaller so you have to cut more and soon the age and size spirals downward and the only way out is a drastic cut in output. We are way, way down the scale for fish and the full suite of marine reserves is an absolute minimum if there is any chance of even partial recovery.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654
Accepting all non-essential cookies helps us to personalise your experience
These cookies are required for basic web functions
Allow us to collect anonymised performance data
Allow us to personalise your experience