Welcoming the announcement, Tom Pickerell, Technical Director, Seafish, said: “We see this important first step as a clear indication that, in the case of MCZs, basing designation on quality of evidence rather than merely numbers is the best approach at this stage.
“It is our hope that this considered approach will also include long-term monitoring of the zones, something parties from all sides of the debate agree is crucial to their success.
“The key to establishing this first tranche of zones has been collaboration between scientists, NGOs, Government and the industry, and that will also be the key in producing the evidence for further MCZ designations over the next three years. Seafish will continue work with industry and other agencies to support the work towards these as part of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs for the UK.”
Further information on the purpose of MCZs, the species and features they aim to protect and the process leading up to their designation is available on GOV.UK, along with information on specific sites and their features.
Factsheets for the 22 inshore MCZs are available from Natural England and factsheets for the five offshore sites are available from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for managing certain activities to further the conservation status of designated MCZs. This will be done in partnership with other authorities including the inshore fisheries and conservation authorities (IFCAs), local authorities (including harbour authorities) and the Environment Agency.
MMO will lead on the management of fishing activities in MCZs between 6 and 12 nautical miles (nm) and on the management of other marine activities in all MCZs within 12nm.
The MMO’s marine licensing processes already include the requirements to consider whether applications could affect the conservation objectives for MCZ features.
Management measures will differ from site to site depending on what features the site intends to protect. Activities will only be regulated if they cause harm to wildlife or damage habitats that are being conserved in the MCZ.
The MMO is also responsible for controlling the impacts of construction, deposits and removals in the marine area on the environment as part of its marine licensing remit. Potential impact on recommended MCZs has been specifically assessed as part this process since spring 2013.