Unprecedented number of new MCZs proposed for UK waters
Plans to create 41 new marine conservation zones (MCZs) across the United Kingdom have been set out by Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Protecting 11,700 square kilometers of marine habitats, the proposal is billed as the most significant expansion of the country’s so-called “Blue Belt” program to date.
The new sites will reach across England’s coastline – from the Southwest to Berwick on the Scottish border, with two sites in Northern Irish offshore waters.
No new activities deemed damaging – such as dredging, or significant coastal or offshore development – will be allowed to take place in these areas. Existing harmful activities will be minimized or stopped to allow important habitats to be restored over time.
Rare or threatened marine habitats and species that will be protected include the short snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.
Some 50 MCZs have already designated around England as part of the Blue Belt program, including the first tranche of 27 zones designated in 2013, followed by the second tranche of 23 sites in 2016. This third and final tranche will be designated within 12 months of the six-week consultation.
If approved, the new tranche will take the total MCZ coverage to around 220,000 square kilometers, meaning two-fifths of the U.K. coast would be protected.
“The U.K. is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations,” said Gove. “Today marks an important step towards completing our Blue Belt. We are creating safe havens for our cherished wildlife and putting the UK at the forefront of marine protection.”
Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has made a call for urgent global action to protect the world’s oceans from plastics and other harmful waste.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Canada, she asked world leaders to work with business, industry and NGOs to find innovative and effective solutions to this issue.
She said that joined-up, global action was needed tackle this shared environmental challenge.