The Needles, Isle of Wight by Jackie Cooper
Our seas are suffering from overfishing, exploitation for resources and damage to natural habitats. Marine Protected Areas – parts of the sea where wildlife and habitats are protected – are key to the future health of our seas, their ecosystems and wildlife
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of the coast or sea that have been designated to provide protection to particular habitats, species or ecosystem processes . They can be designated to protect a particular species or habitat which might be rare nationally, or found in significantly high numbers with relation to National or European populations. Marine Protected Areas designations include:
- European Marine Sites - Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA)
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – usually coastal
- Marine Conservation Zones – A new type of national MPA that can be created through the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
Within MPAs activities which have negative impacts on the environment should be managed to reduce these impacts and encourage marine wildlife to thrive.
Why we need Marine Protected Areas?
The Solent and seas around the Isle of Wight, are a busy shipping route, highly valued as a source of building materials and a popular area for recreational users. The area is also capable of being highly productive and an incredibly important suite for marine life.
Hidden beneath the surface of the sea are landscapes every bit as varied as those on land, with cliffs, valleys, reefs and sediments creating homes for a wide range of species.
For centuries our sea’s riches have been taken for granted. Fragile habitats have been damaged and species have declined. Removal of resources, pollution, inappropriate fishing gear and the effects of climate change have had major detrimental impacts on our marine environment.
For all these reasons and more we must work hard to protect our marine environment, help it recover from past declines and flourish once more to become a Living Sea.
MPAs are not ‘no-go’ areas and many activities continue to happily coexist with protected sites. However, they do allow the management of some damaging activities and in this way can help the sea to thrive and continue to provide us with all the resources we have come to rely on.
We believe Marine Protected Areas are a vital tool to help us achieve our Living Seas vision.