UK Government announces 41 new marine conservation zones

May 31, 2019 by Charles Clover

The UK Government today announced the designations of 41 new marine conservation zones. An area nearly twice the size of England will become a “blue belt” of protected waters as a result of these new designations.

We welcome the expansion of the network of Marine Conservation Zones as part of the Government’s Blue Belt commitment to increased ocean protection.

Now we have these legal promises, it is vital that we urgently begin the work of protecting them.

Since the UK embarked on expanding its network of marine protected areas, the science has become clear that the benefits are highly dependent on the level of protection given. Places highly and fully protected from fishing, especially fisheries using towed gears like bottom trawls and scallop dredges, as well as from aggregate dredging, maintenance dredging, dumping and land based pollution, are shown to have thriving seabed communities.

Protected areas kick-start recovery from fishing and other damage that may have been done decades or even centuries ago.

At the moment trawls and dredges are banned in only 5% of the area of UK marine protected areas. Incredibly, there is more trawling inside protected areas than outside and fewer fish, according to a recent study.

Most of what we have today are therefore paper parks. If we dramatically increase levels of protection for these places, we would have a world class network that would deliver the clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas the government aspires to. The science also says, that fisheries are better off if fishing is kept outside protected areas, because protected stocks replenish them.

BLUE is working with fishing communities in several projects around the British coast – notably in Lyme Bay – to deliver richer, more productive and healthy ocean habitats and fisheries.