Marine Conservation Zones
The MMX Advisory Team
MMX has been tracking the MCZ project for the last three years in all four project zones, and is available to give advice to stakeholders engaged in or affected by the process. Our team of advisors comprises:
Planning Experts (Indigo Planning)
Technical Experts. Including marine ecologists, ornithologists, geologists and mapping experts.
We offer a full range of advisory services on MCZs, ranging from briefings of the process at national, regional and local levels, to the consideration of particular issues at local level.
Please contact us to discuss your requirements.
The UK has a considerable history of establishing wildlife reserves on land, dating back to 1912 when Charles Rothschild formed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, and before that in 1895 when three Victorian philanthropists established The National Trust.
Whilst this movement has led to protection of some coastline nature reserves, there has been very little similar protection for the marine environment beyond the shore. Only Lundy Island, Skomer Island and Strangford Lough have been designated as marine reserves.
Yet the UK coastal seas provide marine habitats of extraordinary diversity – from sea grass meadows to coral reef to underwater canyons. Turtles, dolphins, lobsters, sea horses and a huge variety of fish and invertebrate species make up an astonishing UK marine biodiversity. But just like the land, the marine environment is under pressure to sustain a variety of human activities. Fishing, sailing, operation of pipelines and cables, recreation, diving, tourism and coastal defence all stake their claim in the marine domain and have done so for centuries, defining the economy and community. Zones designated solely for nature conservation are bound to be contentious.
The UK Government, under the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009, has set about attempting to establish an ‘ecologically coherent network’ of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The project divides the English coast into four areas; ‘Net Gain’ off the East Coast; ‘Balanced Seas’ off the South Coast; ‘Finding Sanctuary’ off the West Coast, and ‘Irish Sea Conservation Zones’ off the North West Coast. Zones have not yet been established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Within the four areas, government scientists from Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee are responsible for drawing up ‘Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and the guidance for selection thereof. It is expected that there will be over 100 such sanctuaries of a minimum size of 5km in diameter. Some proposed areas are large; for example the proposed MCZ (pMCZ) Hartland Point to Tintagel, comprises 300 square kilometres.
Within MCZs, it is proposed there will be ‘reference areas’, where all extractive, depositional or disturbing activities are excluded. Other activities such as wildlife watching, swimming, boating, kayaking and scuba diving would be allowed as long as they are well-managed, and cause no impact on the conservation features listed for the site.
The process of identifying and investigating sites has been complex, under detailed guidance and involving regional stakeholder groups of sea users. The process has thus far produced a list of proposed MCZ (pMCZ), which when finalised will be followed by a twelve week period of public consultation.
Once an MCZ is designated, the statutory nature conservation bodies will provide advice to all public authorities who carry out activities or regulate the activities of others (such as the Marine Management Organisation and Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authorities). All public authorities have a legal duty (under the Act) to further the conservation objectives for MCZs in exercising their functions.
The four bodies involved; Net Gain, Balanced Seas, Finding Sanctuary and the Irish Sea Conservation Zones have recently submitted formal submissions on the identification of sites to the Science Advisory Panel, and associated Impact Assessments to Defra.
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