'Safeguarding seahorses and oysters'


The fauna of the UK coastline is to come under government protection with the first of the Marine Conservation Zones, it was announced today. Rivers included in the new MCZs are the Rivers Roach and Crouch in Essex where to ‘safeguard a wide range of precious sea life from seahorses to oyster beds’ as Marine Environment Minister George Eustice announced, may prove difficult.

As it is here that the MOD test weaponry by firing it out over the protected sandbanks: bombs, shells and bullets both for use in the defence of the realm and also to sell to war-torn administrations abroad.

Burnham-on-Crouch – one of the busiest yachting centres on the East Coast was not considered important enough to be left out of the new regulation zones, which also include the popular yachtsman’s rivers of the Blackwater, and Colne Estuaries, also in Essex, the Tamar Estuary in Devon and areas around Folkestone, in Kent.

Paul Rayner, member of the RYA’s Planning and Environment Committee, said: ‘They have simply designated the areas for Marine Conservation Zones at this stage. Nothing was announced as to what management measures would be put in place for each MCZ that may restrict activity. These will be decided by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in partnership with the stakeholders at a local level.’

Defra is clear that action will be taken to ensure that the new sites are properly protected from damaging activities, taking into account local needs. Restrictions will differ from site to site depending on what features the site intends to protect. It states that activities will only be regulated if they cause harm to wildlife or damaging habitats that are being conserved in the MCZ.
Defra has indicated that socio-economic factors, which include yachting, are a consideration and that it was the balance between these and the ecological importance of an area which led to the Stour and Orwell not being designated as MCZs.

The RYA is pleased that Defra has acknowledged that they should have been clearer from the outset with regard to management measures and that it is looking to take the lessons learned on this point forward into future tranches.

‘This is just the beginning, we plan two further phases over the next three years and work to identify these will begin shortly,’ Mr Eustice added. A consultation on the next phase is expected to be launched in early 2015.

 The full list of the 27 designated marine conservation zones can be found on the Defra website at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/marine-conservation-zone-2013-designations.