The wildlife in England’s seas is facing a serious threat, warns the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
The long-awaited network of marine protected areas, promised by the Government for 2012, is in danger, according to Northumberland’s largest voluntary conservation organization which has been instrumental in oceangoing campaigning and research.
Now the Northumberland Wildlife Trust is urging the public to write to the Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP, in support of Marine Conservation Zone’s (MCZ).
After years of pressure from NGOs, and with huge public support, the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 promised a coherent network of protection around the coasts by 2012. Now 127 sites around England’s coast, including a number in the North East, have been recommended by four regional stakeholder groups to become MCZ’s next year.
The recommendations are the result of two years of consultation with more than one million stakeholders, including fishermen, conservationists and businesses. This has been the first ‘Big Society’ experiment where local stakeholders have decided together which areas of the sea should be protected.
However, there is concern that the Government’s Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee) will recommend that only a fraction of the 127 sites are designated.
The Northumberland Wildlife Trust believes a smaller and less effective network of MCZ’s would leave vulnerable and precious areas unprotected.
Steve Lowe, head of conservation at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust said: “A huge amount of work has been done to get a broad agreement on this network of sites needed for the health and future productivity of our marine environment.
“Now, however, in the final stages the Government has lost its direction and is proposing to over-ride the recommendations of local stakeholders and cut the 127 sites down to an unrealistic 30 in contradiction with the aims of the new Marine and Coastal Access Act.”
Steve added: “With wildlife trusts all around the UK, we are lobbying hard for the successful completion of a process that will make the difference between the life or death of our seas. We need to demonstrate the weight of public support for Marine Conservation Zones to the Government. This is a once in a lifetime chance. We can’t afford to let it slip away.”
The Northumberland Wildlife Trust is urging people to write to Richard Benyon and ask for the Government to create the proposed MCZ’s in England.