Fishing areas included in new protection zones –

Fishing areas included in new protection zones Published:  08 September, 2011

THOUSANDS of square miles of fishing and sea area have been listed by the government to be protected in new marine conservation zones.

It includes a large section of the Dogger Bank, one of the main North Sea fishing areas, and over 2,000 miles offshore in the south west of the UK which could be designated seabed habitats,

Also listed are some  65 “reference areas” which could be afforded the highest protection – with all damaging activity such as fishing or dredging banned – to preserve species and habitats. But the sites with the highest protection would make up just two per cent of the overall recommended conservation zones, which total almost 14,500 square miles.

Marine Minister Richard Benyon said: “The thousands of species of sealife and habitats that live hidden under our waters need just as much protection as those we can see on our land. Today has seen our ambition to put in place special protection areas for marine life off the coast of England take a significant step forward.”

The Marine Conservation Society welcomed the announcement, saying protected sites were desperately needed to conserve the seas around the UK coast to allow habitats and wildlife to recover from decades of degradation.

Net Gain, the project covering the North Sea from the Scottish border to the Sussex/Essex border, said it was pleased to announce the submission of its final report.

Since 2009 Net Gain has involved and engaged with a wide range of people who have an interest in the future of our seas; and these stakeholders’ final recommendations for 18 MCZs are the result of two years’ dedicated hard work and collaboration. Stakeholders came together in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, Lincolnshire and the Wash and East of England to develop the recommendations, in line with the government’s vision for healthy and sustainable seas.

Joanne Redhead, project manager of Net Gain, said: “This project was no easy undertaking and is the first of its kind. We have the largest project areas and challenging timescales under which to deliver a complex task.”

The Yorkshire and Humber hub has put forward six recommended Marine Conservation Zones, including two areas of high protection known as Reference Areas. This stretch of the coastline is home to areas of interest such as Flamborough Head, Bempton Cliffs and Filey Brigg, as well as the Humber Estuary.These final recommendations will now be reviewed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (for offshore waters) and Natural England (for English territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles), which will advise on the scientific evidence underpinning the recommended MCZs.