Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds, photo by Rob Spray

NWT rallies marine advocates


Tuesday 10 June, 2014


Support for the proper protection of our seas is being sought by Norfolk Wildlife Trust through a new campaign.

With government commitments for protecting the sea yet to be fully met, urgent action is still needed to turn our over-fished, over-exploited, and currently under-protected waters back into a healthy and sustainable environment.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust, along with the other Wildlife Trusts nationally, is asking the public to show support by signing up to become a ‘Friend of Marine Conservation Zones’. Friends will initially help by urging the government to keep focussed on setting up a proposed 37 new Marine Conservation Zones in English seas, where underwater habitats are protected from damaging activities, such as scallop dredging and trawling. They will also help to defend and champion a wider network of protected areas around the UK’s coast.

27 Marine Conservation Zones were designated in English waters last year, but more are needed to create a full network which works for wildlife.  Under current proposals up to 37 new ‘zones’ could be established around England in 2015, if enough people show support for them.

Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds is included in these 37 new zones. It is located just 200 metres from the Norfolk coast, ranging from 0 – 20 metres in depth. Marine life is abundant here, including blue mussel beds, over 30 species of sea slug, and grey and harbour seals. The chalk habitat hosts large communities of crustaceans, anemones and sponges. Shoaling fish are also a common sight and provide food for many seabirds, including common, little and Sandwich tern.

People who sign up to be a Friend of Marine Conservation Zones can opt to ‘befriend’ one or all of 37 proposed areas, similar to becoming friends of local parks, historic buildings and community projects.  All ‘friends’ will receive regular updates on the campaign from The Wildlife Trusts, with opportunities to get involved and ways to help, such as writing to local MPs and the Prime Minister to press the need for protection and, ultimately, to respond to the public consultation, expected in early 2015.

In June 2013, the strength of feeling was demonstrated when more than 350,000 pledges, calling for a network of Marine Protected Areas, were presented to Downing Street by The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, MCS and WWF.

Brendan Joyce, CEO of Norfolk Wildlife Trust said:  “Many of us are passionate about our local wildlife hotspots on land, and vocal about protecting them.  Although we don’t often see what’s living below the surface of the sea, we do know what it provides for us and we understand what it means to communities. Local parks, historic buildings and wild places have ‘friends of’ groups which help to look after them and so we’re doing the same for the special places in our seas.  With so little of our seas currently protected, we need people to ensure governments around the UK fulfil their commitments and designate areas for protection. Public support for this is essential and will help to ensure that it happens.”

An online map and resources provide details of locations, species and habitats for all 37 recommended Marine Conservation Zones outlining these precious areas’ special features and illustrating their importance. www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends
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