Maria Caulfield MP has welcomed the Government announcement of plans to create more than 40 new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK – safeguarding almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and marking the most significant expansion of the UK’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date. The proposals include an area of East Sussex Coastline off the coast of Beachy Heady.
No new activities deemed damaging – such as dredging, or significant coastal or offshore development – will be allowed to take place in these areas. Existing harmful activities will be minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to be restored over time. Rare or threatened marine habitats and species which will be protected include the short snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed. Some 50 zones have already been designated around England as part of the UK’s ambitious Blue Belt programme, including the first tranche of 27 zones designated in 2013, followed by the second tranche of 23 sites in 2016.
This third and final tranche will be designated within 12 months of the consultation, which will last for a period of six weeks. It will cover approximately 11,700 square km, bringing the total area of protection to over 32,000 square km.
Marine Conservation Zones are just one type of the many Marine Protected Areas in place around the UK to conserve rare, threatened and nationally important habitats and species for future generations. Marine Protected Areas currently cover a total of 209,000 square km. If approved, the new tranche will take the total figure to around 220, 000 square km – meaning two fifths of the UK coast would be protected.
Maria Caulfield MP said “The UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations. This announcement marks an important step towards completing our Blue Belt. We are creating safe havens for our cherished wildlife and putting the UK at the forefront of marine protection.”
“I am passionate about protecting the beautiful natural environment here in Sussex and I am delighted that part of our coastline is included in this new list that are set to become Marine Conservation Zones.”