Environment groups say UK marine protection zone plans are inadequate

Government plans for ‘protection zones’ around the UK coastline are inadequate and won’t halt the dramatic decline of marine species, according to environment groups.

  • WWF: New marine proposals are “a drop in the ocean”

 They have warned that much tougher legislation and more ambitious marine protection zones are needed to help preserve sea life.

The EU has ordered member states to set up special zones under its Marine Strategy Directive, in a bid to halt the slide in biodiversity caused by overfishing and industrialisation.

The first UK offshore sites are due to be announced soon but critics say they fall far short of Government promises to set up a network of marine reserves where stocks would be safeguarded against overfishing.WWF claimed proposals in the new Marine Bill currently going through Parliament did not offer enough protection for vulnerable marine species and habitats.

Natasha Barker, Senior Marine Policy Officer at WWF-UK, said: “The UK’s proposals are but a drop in the ocean and are insufficient to fully protect our seas and the rich biodiversity they support. We need the UK Government to fulfil its duty to create a network of marine protected areas, otherwise many marine species and habitats will remain at risk.”

WWF claims that much of the UK’s waters are still threatened by overfishing and oil and gas development. Only one per cent of EU waters are legally protected compared with 20 per cent of land.

The environmental pressure group wants key breeding sites such as sandbanks on the Dogger Bank, reefs on the west of Shetland slope and outer Wash area included as marine protection zones.

Natasha Barker added: “Further sites are needed to contribute to the Natura 2000 network but we also need the UK Marine and Coastal Access Bill to be strong enough to fill any gaps and ensure a healthy marine environment. WWF is calling for an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas which represents the full range of biodiversity in UK waters.”

There are more than 44,000 different species in UK waters but they enjoy little legal protection. Only two small areas, off Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel and Lamlash Bay off the Isle of Arran are protected by law.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) insisted the Government had a statutory duty to set up a network of marine conservation zones.

It has called for no-take zones and the removal of a loophole in the new legislation which would allow fishing to be used as a defence if a marine protection zone is damaged.

The MCS wants 30 per cent of UK waters to be designated as protection zones by 2020.


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