Defra announces third tranche of marine conservation zone designations

By | June 5, 2019

MCZs protect our diverse species and habitats in the “blue belt” around the English Coast

Following public consultation, Defra has announced the designation of the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). All 41 new sites and the addition of new features to 12 existing MCZs proposed during last summer’s consultation are now designated.

This third tranche builds on the 50 MCZs already in place and essentially completes government’s contribution to the ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas in terms of species and habitat representation.

In total, we now have 175 Marine Protected Areas of different types, conserving 40% of English seas and providing vital protection for a diverse array of wildlife.

There was a high level of interest in the public consultation, with over 48,500 responses received.  In its response, the RYA maintained that the public right of navigation (which includes anchoring) should be respected and upheld, and the safety of navigation should not be adversely impacted.

The RYA considered the proportionality, enforceability and effectiveness of each site and asserted that relevant economic and social consequences should be taken into account when designating any site.

We also examined the proposed management scenarios for each site and pressed for all options for voluntary initiatives such as those actively promoted by The Green Blue (the RYA’s joint environment campaign with British Marine) to be exhausted prior to consideration of any statutory management measures.

Duncan Savage, RYA Planning and Environmental Officer, commented: “We support the UK and devolved governments’ shared vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas, and we believe the third tranche of MCZ designations will have minimal impact on recreational boating.

“Anchoring and mooring restrictions were proposed as one of a number of potential management options at some sites where seagrass is a designation feature (Studland Bay and Bembridge). However, no immediate change is required in boating behaviours. In the meantime, we continue to promote ‘Anchoring With Care’.

“We are continuing to work with governments to identify a more holistic approach, including understanding the potential of environmentally friendly moorings, and sharing best practice with regards to wildlife disturbance.”

The Government’s response to the consultation, outlining the evidence received and explaining the decisions taken on each site, can be found here, and full details of all sites are available at here.

A spokesperson for Defra said: “This third tranche of MCZs fulfils a government commitment to form a Blue Belt of protection around our coasts. These new sites are also a key element of an ambitious programme to protect and enhance the marine environment while supporting sustainable use of its resources, and will help to achieve the government’s vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.”

Now sites are designated, regulatory authorities are considering the management needs for each site and will be engaging with relevant stakeholders as appropriate in taking these forward.

Management measures will be implemented based on the specifics of each case and any restrictions will depend on the sensitivity of the species, habitats or geomorphological features to the activity taking place.

The Government has stated that management will not be put in place where activities do not have a detrimental impact on the conservation aims of the MCZ.  The RYA supports this approach and has been meeting regularly with the MMO and Natural England, working closely with them to influence this process as it has developed.

Defra will continue to consider any residual gaps and further designations of new sites and features remain possible. As new scientific evidence emerges, there may also be a need to make future changes by expanding or adapting existing sites.

The RYA’s environment hub has resources and practical advice for clubs and boaters on a range of topics including caring for the environment and keeping on the right side of planning and licensing laws. For further information or specific advice, please email them at environment@rya.org.uk or call on +44 (0) 23 8060 4228.