YWT in talks with Fisheries Minister over delay in marine protection
Wednesday 22nd February 2012
Hugh Bayley, Richard Benyon and Rob Stoneman with Petition Fish
A representative from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust met with Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon and York MP Hugh Bayley yesterday to discuss marine protection off England’s coastline.
Dr Rob Stoneman, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, was keen to ensure the importance of our seas and their value to our economy was recognised by the Government. Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act the Government is obliged to designate a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) that will enable our depleted seas to recover. The North Sea, once one of the most productive seas, is known to have suffered a 95% drop in biomass alone, and the story is much the same for waters surrounding the rest of Britain. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that delays to the designation of MCZs will hamper the recovery of these vulnerable ecosystems.
Hugh Bayley, York MP:
This is a golden opportunity to ensure the future of our seas and it mustn’t be lost.
York MP Hugh Bayley who pledged his support to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s marine campaign by signing a scale on the Trust’s Petition Fish in December 2011 said:
“The Marine Act was passed by Parliament in 2009 with all party support but the Coalition Government is delaying the designation of the Marine Conservation Zones which will protect wildlife at sea. I am pleased the Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon agreed to meet with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and me to discuss our concerns over the pace at which designation is taking place. Mr Benyon agreed to write to stakeholders in the spring to provide clarity on the timetable for designation and on how many areas need to be designated. I want all or most of the recommended zones to be designated at the same time, so that the Government honours its commitment to establish a coherent network of Marine Conservation Zones."
Studies have shown that unless action is taken now human activities could cause mass extinctions in the marine environment. Conservation zones have been highlighted as a way of reversing this decline, as marine wildlife would have the opportunity to thrive within them and from there populate our seas so that they might return to health and once more be a valuable, productive resource.
Regional stakeholder-led advisory projects have selected 127 possible sites for designation, a process that has taken 18 months and involved more than one million people. These proposals were published by Defra in September 2011, and the Government initially pledged to designate an ecologically coherent network of MCZs by the end of 2012. However the Government has since dragged their heels, announcing in November 2011 that they would be delaying this decision to allow more data to be collected. It has also been suggested that only 20 to 30 sites will be designated in 2013, with no timetable in place for the designation of the remaining.
Rob Stoneman said:
“It is essential that the Government sets out a concrete timetable for the designation of marine conservation zones. Now is our chance to reverse the pattern of decline in our marine environment – it is more important than ever that we act. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will continue to push for MCZ designation so that we can turn our seas into Living Seas teeming with life; the longer we wait the greater the damage to our marine environment.”
If you are concerned about our marine environment and would like to know more or support our petition for protected areas then please visit: www.wildlifetrusts.org/petitionfish.