Battle to protect wildlife at sea receives boost today

We've welcomed the possibility of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, and called for the government to reconsider local sites they've dropped

Today 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 areas of the Isle of Wight coast - Bembridge, and Norris to Ryde.

Stalked jellyfish at Bembridge

© Polly Whyte

The seagrass beds near Bembridge are home to a wide range of special species, like these stalked jellyfish.

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.”

Hampshire & Isle of Wight 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 we're very disappointed that some important areas, including two local sites -coastline from Norris to Ryde, and Fareham Creek - have been dropped altogether. 

Seahorse in seagrass

© Julie Hatcher

Underwater rainforests

Seagrass meadows are often referred to as the rainforests of our seas. They offer vital food and shelter for hundreds of species including seahorses, seabass and spider crabs.

One of the areas dropped from the goverment's plans, Norris to Ryde, is home to one of the largest seagrass meadows in the south east of England - 200 hectares of beautiful, fragile wildlife-rich habitat that needs our protection.

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Tim Ferrero, Senior Specialist for Marine Advocacy at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “We welcome the government’s proposals to protect 41 new areas for marine wildlife in our waters. Adding to the fifty MCZs already designated, this is a step in the right direction towards completing a ‘blue belt’ of protected areas where our marine wildlife can recover.

“The designation of the Bembridge and Yarmouth to Cowes recommended MCZs could add important protection for some of our precious and productive local marine habitats and species like seahorses and stalked jellyfish.

"However we are disappointed that some proposals have been watered down. Locally two of the four wildlife havens that were being considered have now been dropped altogether – the Norris to Ryde coastline and Fareham Creek. Within these are one of the largest underwater seagrass meadows in the south east, and a vital area for native oysters respectively – both of which deserve protection too."

We're calling on the public to make their voices heard and support the designation of all the proposed Marine Conservation Zones in the consultation, and call on the government to think again about adopting all four of our local recommended Marine Conservation Zones as part of the consultation.

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