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Scientific Approach Needed for Marine Conservation Zones

Sustainability Politics +2 more

UK - Decisions on designating Marine Conservation Zones around the UK will be made in the autumn and will only be made on strong scientific evidence, writes Chris Harris.

This was the message from the British fisheries minister Richard Benyon (pictured) at the Shellfish Association of Great Britain annual conference in London on Tuesday.

Mr Benyon indicated that not all of the 127 prospective zones that had been identified around the shores of the UK would be finally legally designated.

He said that the Marine Conservation Zones are part of the wider agenda of the development of coastal conservati0on and the development of the marine and fishing industries, which includes marine management and planning, licensing, the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and environmental management.

“This is a mammoth agenda,” he said.

“We need to deliver sustainable economic growth.

“The Marine Conservation Zones are part of the wider agenda. They are one part of the jigsaw, but not the entire picture.”

Mr Benyon said that if the government is to start asking fishermen to stop doing certain things in the zones there has to be strong scientific evidence.

“Marine Conservation Zones are not just about drawing a line on the map. They have to be meaningful,” he said.

Mr Benyon added that there had been more than 40,000 responses to the consultation over the zones, which have to be considered before a decision is made in the autumn.

And he indicated that the final decision would be to ensure that the sites that are designated to preserve habitats meet the criteria for both UK and EU standards.

He said the aim is to consult fully and to develop a sustainable fisheries sector and a healthy marine environment.

Mr Benyon also said that the government and authorities have to work with the shellfish sector to draw up agreed indicators of stocks and to develop an agenda for the stocks by the spring of 2015.

He said that he wanted to ensure that the sector does not exceed the limits for brown crabs and he also wants to see a development of the aquaculture sector around the shores and a development of partnerships between the fisheries industry and the water authorities.

He said the aim is to boost growth and bring benefits and jobs to the aquaculture sector.