ENGLAND, UK - Twenty-three new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have been confirmed along England's coast, extending the country’s ‘Blue Belt’ to cover over 20 per cent of English waters.
Marine Environment Minister George Eustice announced the new sites, which will protect 4,155 square miles of our most stunning and rich marine habitats and bring the total number of MCZs in waters around England to 50, covering 7,886 square miles - an area roughly equivalent to the whole of Wales, or 13 times the size of Greater London.
The new MCZs will cover areas across the country from as far north as Farnes East off the coast of Northumberland down to Land’s End in the South West, and will protect 45 different types of habitat, geological features and fascinating species - including stalked jellyfish and spiny lobsters.
Welcoming the designation of the new sites, Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said: "As an island nation, the UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world - from the bright pink sea-fan coral colonies off the south-west coast, to the great chalk reef stretches in the east. It’s vital that we protect our marine environment to ensure our seas remain healthy, our fishing industry remains prosperous and future generations can enjoy our beautiful beaches, coastline and waters.
"By designating these new Marine Conservation Zones and creating a Blue Belt of protected areas around the country, we can better protect our environment through careful marine management in years to come."
The 23 additional sites are the second of three planned phases of MCZs; the first phase covered 3,731 square miles of water over 27 sites, while a third phase of proposed MCZs will be put out to wider public consultation in 2017, and designated in 2018.
The announcement has also been welcomed by a number of campaign groups. Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ head of Living Seas, said: "Marine protection is vital to us all, no matter where we live. Our seas provide the oxygen for every second breath we take, the fish on our plates and so much more. The designation of 50 Marine Conservation Zones to date is a strong step forward but there is much still to do. It is vital that appropriate management is implemented as soon as possible. We will continue to work with government to ensure that this happens and to achieve the much-needed ambitious and comprehensive third and final tranche."
TheFishSite News Desk