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.
Sad that the economy trumps the environment time and time again. This Government yet again nails their 'Greenest Government Ever' pledge into their economic coffin of doom. It is up to us as brilliant conservation organisations and campaigners to unite now and really change the narative. We must keep banging the drum against short-termism and the obsession with economics and austerity. I am frankly amazed that this Government have come out with their committment to Fracking and this unambitious MCZ designation in the same week. We really have got a big fight on our hands. I'm well up for it though!
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