English seas get new marine conservation zones
Date published: 25th November 2013
Last December a two-year £8m consultation involving the government's own science advisers recommended the creation of 127 MCZs to halt the rapid decline of fish, lobsters, oysters and seahorses.
But earlier this year, ministers announced plans to construct just 31 zones aimed at protecting life on the ocean floor.
At the time, campaigners described the plan as "pitiful" and a "bitter disappointment" - but the then environment minister Richard Benyon insisted that the scientific evidence for a large proportion of the zones was "just not up to scratch".
He said another £3.5m was being spent on gathering more evidence that could support more zones being designated in future.
Announcing the 27 new zones, marine environment minister George Eustice said the department was doing "more than ever" to protect England's marine environment and almost a quarter of English inshore waters and 9% of UK waters would be "better protected".
He said that the new MCZs - which would join over 500 marine protected areas that already exist - would cover an area roughly three times the size of Wiltshire and would span the waters around the English coast.
The scheme would ensure areas such as Chesil Beach and the Skerries Banks are safeguarded.
The minister said that the number of new sites had been reduced from 31 to 27 because two of the sites - at Stour and Orwell and Hilbre Island - were too costly,
A final decision on the two remaining sites - at Hythe Bay and North of Celtic Deep - will be made in the next phase of the project.To continue reading click here