Last month, a huge wave of public support swept over Westminster when a Petition Fish signed by 250,000 people, calling for greater protection for UK's seas and coastline, was presented to Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon.
The petition was organised by the Wildlife Trusts as part of their Living Seas Campaign. Many people in the West Midlands signed the petition, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust alone collecting around 300 signatures.
The petition asks the Government to designate more than 120 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) which were nominated after two years of consideration, rather than the 31 they have proposed and upon which they are now consulting. These zones are home to an astounding variety of animals and plants, from giant basking sharks and minke wales to delicate corals and the cod which goes with our chips. Marine Conservation Zones will help these species and others to thrive whilst sustaining our many other uses of the sea.
Those uses include fishing, wind farms, tidal barrages, oil wells and mineral extraction. Add to this dumping waste and sewage, damage to the sea bed from some fishing methods, and the deaths of dolphins and other creatures in fishing gear, and the need for action is obvious. Being the equivalent of land-based nature reserves, MCZs will serve to protect marine wildlife and its habitats from these dangers. Nature reserves were the foundation of nature conservation activities on land throughout the 20th Century, MCZs could do the same job for the sea in this century.
The presentation of the petition coincided with the publication of a report, Securing the Benefits of the Marine Conservation Zone Network, commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts and produced by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research at Plymouth University. The report says that designating MCZs is likely to bring many benefits, including coastal protection. The Wildlife Trusts want the Government to designate and enforce appropriate management of all 31 of the proposed MCZs in 2013 and set a clear timetable for the rest of the network to be designated.
Simon King OBE, The Wildlife Trusts’ President, said he was disappointed that all 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones were not immediately being designated but was heartened to hear the Government had every intention of designating 127 and more if necessary.
He stressed that time was of the essence as we risk losing more of this precious resource.
In a cold February in the middle of the country, how nice to turn the mind to sun-drenched beaches and sparkling blue seas – and how much nicer would it be if those seas and their wildlife were properly protected.