The government has pledged to create 41 new Marine Conservation Zones around Britain’s coastline, as part of its wider ocean conservation strategy.
The new designations will constitute the biggest expansion of the UK’s ‘blue belt’ of protected areas ever undertaken.
The announcement was made on World Oceans Day, which encourages people to take action to improve the health of the world’s oceans.
A six-week consultation is planned after which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) intends to designate some 11,000 sq km of coastline as newly protected – bringing the total area to 220,000 sq km, or two-fifths of the country’s coastline.
The RYA fully supports the UK and Devolved Governments’ shared vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas – and recognises that establishing an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas will contribute towards achieving this vision.
The RYA believes that in most cases this vision can be achieved without any adverse effect on either the public right or the safety of navigation for recreational boating.
Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, says: “We welcome the announcement that this final set of MCZs will be consulted on. We have been involved in all four of the English Regional Stakeholder Groups and we continue to work closely with stakeholders and Defra.
“The RYA’s primary objectives of engaging in the MCZ consultation process are to protect the public right of navigation and to ensure, as far as possible, that recreational boating interests are not adversely affected by the designation of such sites.
“We believe that all options for protection through voluntary initiatives such as those actively promoted by The Green Blue, our joint environment programme with British Marine, should be exhausted prior to consideration of statutory management measures.”
When the new areas are assigned Marine Conservation Zones, no new activities that are deemed damaging to marine environments will be allowed to take place. This includes dredging, coastal or offshore development, and a number of other activities which can cause physical changes to marine environments.
Further, some designations will be made to areas where rare or endangered species make their habitats. Under the programme, these areas and the threatened species that live there will receive specific protections.
The government has already created 50 protected zones, with 27 designated in 2013 and another 23 three years later.
Find out more
Resources and practical advice for clubs and boaters on a range of topics, including caring for the environment and keeping on the right side of planning and licensing laws, can be found on the RYA’s planning and environment hub.
For further information or specific advice, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +44 (0) 23 8060 4223.
This story is from the RYA.