Friday, 12 April 2013

Welcome call for action to protect the marine environment

The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee published the results of its inquiry into marine science on 11th April.  This influential group of MPs warns that the Government’s failure to push forward with the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) is creating uncertainty for sea users and risks putting important habitats at risk.

We in the Wildlife Trusts have voiced our concerns for some time that Government’s commitment to protecting the marine environment is failing.  The need for Marine Conservation Zones is well known, yet the Government is still refusing to act with the urgency required.  In Sussex just 3 of the proposed 9 Marine Conservation Zones are being taken forward to consultation.

It is difficult to see why there is such delay and why, nationally, less than 25% of what should be considered a minimum is going forward to the next stage.  Lack of information is often given as the reason yet there is ample information on which to base a decision.  Indeed, I wonder what information the government has to justify the idea that a functional marine ecological network can be created with less than 25% of what the scientists say is necessary.

The Committee’s Chair, Andrew Miller MP, said the Government must end the uncertainty and set out a clear timetable for the designation of the MCZ network.

The MP’s report said the Government had ‘moved the goalposts’ during the MCZ process and that it was unclear how they had chosen the 31 sites out of the original 127 to put forward for designation this year.  The Committee also questioned why some sites identified as being ‘at risk’ were not being taken forward for protection.

Andrew Miller MP, said, “Properly managed Marine Conservation Zones will protect marine life in the UK’s coastal waters and ensure the fishing industry has a sustainable long- term future.  The Government is currently letting the project flounder while sensitive environments are further degraded and the industry is subjected to further uncertainty.

Joan Edwards, Head of The Wildlife Trusts Living Seas project added:  The Science and Technology Select Committee’s report is clear that the Government has no reason to delay the designation of the MCZ network. We have been calling – and shall continue to call - for a clear timetable for action.  We hope this Committee’s report will encourage some renewed commitment to protecting our fragile seas.”