New wave of protection for the sea announced today

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is celebrating the news today that the Government is designating a third phase of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), eight of which will be around Cornwall. This historic move will help protect the seas around our shores and follows on from previous announcements of 50 MCZs (in 2013 and 2016). It is the third of three phases promised by the Government in order to fulfil the remit of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

MCZs are areas at sea where a range of rare and threatened species and habitats are protected from damaging activities. The 41 new MCZs are special places and include cold water corals, forests of sea fans, rocky canyons and sandbanks – an astonishingly varied range of submerged landscapes which support the stunning diversity of marine life found in the UK.  They include the Camel and Helford Estuaries, as well as six sites further offshore, such as the important nursery grounds of the South West Approaches to the Bristol Channel, and the rich, muddy depths of the largest MCZ to be designated, the South-West Deeps.  All will contribute towards a network of areas which is urgently needed to ensure a healthy future for our seas. 

Female ballan wrasse by Matt Slater

Female Ballan wrasse by Matt Slater

The 41 special places were consulted on last year and Cornwall Wildlife Trust welcomes the decision to designate all 41 sites as a really positive step to benefit our seas and wildlife.

Ruth Williams, Marine Conservation Manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“This is fantastic news and a real reason to celebrate! Designating these additional eight sites as Marine Conservation Zones in Cornwall will help to guarantee a future for the extraordinarily diverse natural landscapes that exist beneath the waves off our coast, and help form the network of protected marine areas that we have been campaigning for for many years. I want to say a massive thank you to all those passionate people who took the time to respond to the consultation last year and back our campaign to achieve this vital network of MCZs. However, designation alone does not mean these sites will be protected and the next step is to ensure that these sites are effectively managed to aid recovery and a sustainable future for our seas and all those that rely on it for their livelihoods.”

Crawfish by Matt Slater

Crawfish off Padstow MCZ by Matt Slater 

After the first 50 MCZs were designated, The Wildlife Trusts launched a Wave of Support campaign to coincide with the public consultation on the third phase.  Over 22,000 people joined our call for better protection of our seas in just six weeks in the summer of 2018. 

Carolyn Cadman, Chief Executive of Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“We’ve been calling for the government to give real protection to a connected network of diverse sea-bed habitats since 2009. We now have a total of 91 MCZs designated nationally which is a real achievement. We need to restore the sea-bed that has been ravaged over the past century and allow fragile marine life to recover – and this can only be done with good management. Without these astonishing submerged landscapes, there simply wouldn't be any fish, let alone fantastic jewel anemones, seahorses, and all the other wild and extraordinary creatures which are part of a healthy marine ecosystem.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust believes that the designation of these new sites is a big step in the right direction for Cornwall’s seas but now the focus must be on caring for these special places effectively so that our ocean wildlife has the best possible chance of recovery.