The UK’s sea life needs you!

Posted on 4th June 2014

The Wildlife Trusts rally marine advocates

Support for the proper protection of our seas is being sought by The Wildlife Trusts through a new campaign, launched today, World Ocean’s Day (8 June).

With government commitments for protecting the sea yet to be fully met, urgent action is still needed to turn our over-fished, over-exploited, and currently under-protected waters back into a healthy and sustainable environment.

The Wildlife Trusts are asking the public to show support by signing up to become a ‘Friend of Marine Conservation Zones’.  Friends will initially help by urging the government to keep focussed on setting up a proposed 37 new Marine Conservation Zones in English seas, where underwater habitats are protected from damaging activities, such as scallop dredging and trawling.  They will also help to defend and champion a wider network of protected areas around the UK’s coast.

27 Marine Conservation Zones were designated in English waters last year, but more are needed to create a full network which works for wildlife.  Under current proposals up to 37 new ‘zones’ could be established around England in 2015, if enough people show support for them.

People who sign up to be a Friend of Marine Conservation Zones can opt to ‘befriend’ one or all of 37 proposed areas, similar to becoming friends of local parks, historic buildings and community projects.  All ‘friends’ will receive regular updates on the campaign from The Wildlife Trusts, with opportunities to get involved and ways to help, such as writing to local MPs and the Prime Minister to press the need for protection and, ultimately, to respond to the public consultation, expected in early 2015.

In June 2013, the strength of feeling was demonstrated when more than 350,000 pledges, calling for a network of Marine Protected Areas, were presented to Downing Street by The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, MCS and WWF.

The Wildlife Trusts now hope to inspire people to stand up again for the wildlife which lives, feeds and finds sanctuary in the many different habitats in UK waters.  These remain at risk until more areas offering effective protection are established.

Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Seas, said:  “Many of us are passionate about our local wildlife hotspots on land, and vocal about protecting them.  Although we don’t often see what’s living below the surface of the sea, we do know what it provides for us and we understand what it means to communities. Local parks, historic buildings and wild places have ‘friends of’ groups which help to look after them and so we’re doing the same for the special places in our seas.  With so little of our seas currently protected, we need people to ensure governments around the UK fulfil their commitments and designate areas for protection. Public support for this is essential and will help to ensure that it happens.

World Ocean’s Day is a good time to reflect on the damage years of over-exploitation and neglect of our seas has had on UK marine life.  It needs more protection and we are sure people across the country who cherish our native sea life, and understand the threats it faces, will get involved.  Together we can ensure our seas and their wildlife are afforded proper protection for everyone to enjoy in the future.”

The UK’s 11,073 miles of coastline is host to many thousands of species including intricate corals, whales & dolphins, basking sharks, seals, and a myriad fascinating fish, crustaceans and molluscs.  These creatures live, feed and shelter in many different habitats under the waves, including sea caves and reefs which support sponges, sea squirts and corals, as well as crabs, lobsters and fish; sandbanks and seagrass meadows which are nurseries for fish and support sand eels which, in turn, are food for seabirds and seals.  All remain at risk, until areas which offer effective protection are established.

In England, these protected areas are called Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).  After the 2011 Marine Act, establishing them should be a formality but it’s not.  Although the UK government is committed to establishing an ecological coherent network of Marine Protected Areas by 2016, only 27 Marine Conservation Zones have so far been approved in England.  Marine Conservation Zones protect threatened undersea habitats such as eelgrass meadows, rocky reefs and deepwater canyons – and the animals that live in and around them.  Often these areas are important sanctuaries for marine life.

An online map and resources provide details of locations, species and habitats for all 37 recommended Marine Conservation Zones outlining these precious areas’ special features and illustrating their importance.

Friends of Marine Conservation Zones

To find out more about your local recommended Marine Conservation Zone, and sign up to be a Friend, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends from Sun 8 Jun 2014.  Your details will never be used by anyone else, or for any other purpose.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are places at sea where human activities, such as fishing are restricted.  They are a tried and tested means of conserving habitats and wildlife at sea and there are many around the world.  Find out more about what’s happening in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man at http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/MPA.

Marine Conservation Zones

In November 2013, The Wildlife Trusts welcomed Defra’s designation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones, the first step towards the creation of an ecologically coherent network so absolutely vital to ensure the healthy future of our seas.  The designation followed a consultation and two years of stakeholder negotiations involving fishermen, conservationists, divers, shipping companies and other sea users.  Recommendations were made for a network of protected sites at sea, of which 27 were created last year (the green sites on the map).  At that time, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice also announced plans to designate two more phases of MCZs over the next three years to complete the Government’s contribution to a network of marine protected areas.  A consultation on the second phase is expected to be launched in early 2015.  In February 2014, Defra announced its list of candidate sites for the second round.  These 37 sites (the amber sites on the map) are those it is considering consulting on for designation in 2015.  Defra now plans to gather more information about these sites before consulting on a final list at the beginning of 2015.

Coquet to St Mary’s Farne’s East Fulmar Runswick Bay Compass Rose
Holderness Inshore Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Swale Estuary Dover to Deal Dover to Folkestone
Offshore Brighton Offshore Overfalls Utopia Bembridge Norris to Ryde
Yarmouth to Cowes The Needles Studland Bay Western Channel Mounts Bay
Lands End North-West of Jones Bank Greater Haig Fras Newquay and the Gannel Hartland Point to Tintagel
Bideford to Foreland Point North of Lundy South of Celtic Deep Celtic Deep East of Celtic Deep
Mid St Georges Channel North St Georges Channel Slieve Na Griddle South Rigg West of Walney
Mud Hole Allonby Bay