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.

  • Yet another ecological disaster from this " greenest Government ever" is what I think of this Government's annoucement about marine conservation zones. As you say Martin, very very disappointing and a very big let down. Despite the question and answer session that was held with Mr Benyon over a year ago and his reassuring words at the time they have effectively come to nought. What a disappointment for all those who have worked to hard on this subject. Nevertheless we must "pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down" resume the campaign on a coordinated basis with other relevant conservation organisations and look to the future, including, say 2015 when a new set of our "dearly beloved" politiciations maybe in charge.