Battle to protect wildlife at sea receives boost

Friday 8th June 2018

Tompot blenny by Paul NaylorTompot blenny by Paul Naylor

Devon Wildlife Trust welcomes possibility of nine new Marine Conservation Zones for Devon and 41 nationwide

Today (8 June) the government has launched a consultation asking the public for their views about protecting a new group of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) – areas at sea where wildlife is protected from damaging activities. 41 special places have been chosen for the public to comment on, including nine in Devon’s waters.

The Devon sites range from the Dart estuary, which is home to both British species of seahorse, to Morte Platform - between Morte Point and Lundy - where a great diversity of marine wildlife is supported on an area of seabed consisting of rocky, sandy and muddy habitats featuring living reefs and mussel beds.

Plymouth-based Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts said:
“We’ve been calling for the government to give real protection to a connected network of diverse sea-bed habitats since 2009. Only 50 have been designated so far and this new consultation on 41 special places is really good news.

"We need to restore the sea-bed that has been ravaged over the past century and allow fragile marine life to recover – and this can only be done with good management.

"Without these astonishing submerged landscapes there simply wouldn't be any fish, let alone fantastic jewel anemones, seahorses, and all the other wild and extraordinary creatures which are part of a healthy marine ecosystem.”

Devon Wildlife Trust believes that the consultation is a big step in the right direction for England’s seas. Proper protection of these sites after designation will mean that our seas will be given the opportunity to recover. However, there is disappointment that the proposed 1100-square kilometre protected area for Lyme Bay’s white-beaked dolphins is missing from the consultation.

Harry Barton, Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, said:
“I’m thrilled to see that we’ve got a really good chance to protect nine new marine sites around Devon’s beautiful coasts. I’m particularly pleased that our internationally important estuaries, among them the Dart, the Otter and the Erme, are on the list of potential sites.

"It’s disappointing that neither the Taw and Torridge estuaries nor the Lyme Bay Deeps site for dolphins and seabirds have been included on the list. We desperately need to safeguard areas for these wonderful creatures so that they can continue to grace our seas. We’ll keep pushing for greater protection for these areas in future.”

The full list of new proposed Marine Conservation Zones for Devon comprises:
• Axe Estuary
• Dart Estuary
• Devon Avon Estuary
• East of Start Point
• Erme Estuary
• Morte Platform
• North-west of Lundy
• South-west Approaches to the Bristol Channel
• Otter Estuary

Harry Barton continued: “The most important thing now is that as many people as possible tell the government that they want these sites protected. If we succeed, it’ll be a huge step forward for marine wildlife and to leaving our natural environment in a better state than we found it.”

The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the public to back the 41 potential Marine Conservation Zones in the consultation – details of how to do this will be added to The Wildlife Trusts and Devon Wildlife Trust websites and on social media in the next week. The consultation closes on Friday 20 July 2018.