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Fisheries Minister Visits Balanced Seas Group

UK - The Natural Environment and Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, met with the Balanced Seas Regional Stakeholder Group in London to learn more about the creation of Marine Conservation Zones.

Balanced Seas is a collaborative project working to recommend Marine Conservation Zones around south-east England. Marine Conservation Zones will be set up under the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009. These will protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology.

The Balanced Seas Regional Stakeholder Group is responsible for developing the recommendations for Marine Conservation Zones, and these will be submitted to the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies on 31 August 2011.

The Minister learnt about the progress made by the group and saw maps showing how site locations and boundaries have evolved since the process started in late 2009. He also saw some of the data and information that has been collected to underpin the recommendations. A question and answer session allowed the Group to talk with the Minister about their experience with the process, their concerns and their aspirations for the future of the network.

Following the meeting, Richard Benyon said: It was very good to meet the people who are responsible for developing the Marine Conservation Zone recommendations, using their specialist knowledge, expertise and close understanding of the sectors they represent. I recognise the huge amount of work the stakeholders have all personally contributed and I believe that this is the right process to produce an outcome which is both credible and workable.

He went on to say: I want this process to be part of a wider vision to make our seas healthier for future generations. Through careful management, our seas can continue to be an invaluable sustainable resource of benefit to us all. I want to thank all those who have been involved in this process and look forward to seeing their recommendations later this year.

The Balanced Seas Regional Stakeholder Group is made up of representatives from the key organisations and sectors with an interest in the marine environment in the south-east, including commercial fishing, water sports, recreational sea angling, nature conservation, ports, renewable energy and other industries and interests. Unlike other protected areas already designated around the south-east which were identified on scientific grounds alone, the recommendations for Marine Conservation Zones will take socio-economic issues into account.

Linda Davies, Balanced Seas Project Board Chair, also commented: It was helpful that the Regional Stakeholder Group had the opportunity to discuss the project directly with the Minister and share their suggestions, vision and concerns. The Ministers full understanding of the project, willingness to examine the issues openly with sea users and continued goodwill is very encouraging.

There will be a three month public consultation in 2012 and the Government aims to designate Marine Conservation Zones in December 2012.

If you wish to provide input while the project is still in the regional phase in the south-east, please contact your sector representative on the relevant stakeholder group. Information on how to contact stakeholder representatives can be found at www.balancedseas.org

To read the latest Draft Final Recommendations report and see the sites visit the RSG Resources section of the website at www.balancedseas.org/page/RSG%20Resources.html

the Fish Site Editor

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