Today Norfolk Wildlife Trust welcomes the news that this Government is designating a second phase of 23 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and the inclusion of the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds in Norfolk.
This historic move illustrates a renewed impetus to protect the seas
around our shores. It follows on from the announcement of 27 MCZs in 2013 and is the second of three phases promised by the Government in order to fulfil the remit of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
Marine Conservation Zones are a type of protected area at sea designated for habitats and species of national importance. Such protected areas are a tried and tested means of giving vulnerable species the time and space to recover.
The 23 new MCZs are special places and include cold water coral reefs, forests of sea fans, canyons and sandbanks, and an astonishingly varied range of submerged landscapes which support the stunning diversity of marine life found in the UK.
They include the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds in the North Sea, thought to be Europe’s largest chalk reef. This unique marine habitat
is home to an incredible diversity of marine life including many species of colourful sea slugs (nudibranchs), fish, including bass, bib, the endangered European eel and the colourful tompot blenny and sponges, including one unique to this area and not known anywhere else in the world.
Chief Executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Brendan Joyce said: “Both the general public and our members have been active in supporting protection for this area and its designation as an MCZ. As long ago as 2012 we collected around 10,000 signatures written on silver ‘fish’ scales which were part of a 250,000-name petition handed in at Westminster in January 2013. It’s been a long haul but we are delighted that this area is now receiving the national recognition and protection it deserves.
“We believe that in the long run better protection of marine habitats such as Norfolk’s chalk reef will benefit not just wildlife, but also people and the local economy. We can all be proud that in Norfolk we have so many wildlife areas which are of national importance and this designation recognises the rich wildlife of our seas which so often in the past have been out of sight and out of mind. For a long time protection of marine species has lagged behind the protection the our well known and much loved land based sites have enjoyed.”
Joan Edwards, head of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “We are pleased by this Government’s commitment to addressing the decimation of our seabed over the past century, and to delivering an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. This second step towards the completion of a ‘blue belt’ in UK seas is crucial in turning the tide on the state of our seas but there’s still work to be done. We look forward to working with Government and stakeholders to ensure these 50 MCZs are properly managed and to achieve the much-needed ambitious and comprehensive third and final tranche. This will be the start of turning our over-fished, over-exploited and currently under-protected waters back into a healthy and sustainable environment.”
The list of Marine Conservation Zones was drawn-up by sea-users, scientists and conservationists, with Government committing to designating the sites in three waves or tranches. The Wildlife Trusts, actively involved in every step of the process, are buoyed by the achievement of another important milestone on the road to better protected seas. We are calling for anyone interested in protecting our seas to join more than 8,000 other passionate supporters and become a Friend of MCZs