Marine conservation zones plans delayed

Plans for a network of protected areas to safeguard nationally important marine habitats around the coast of England have been delayed by six months.

Zones aim to safeguard marine habitats
Zones aim to safeguard marine habitats

In September 127 marine conservation zones (MCZs) were recommended for designation in coastal and offshore waters, covering 37,475 square kilometres.

Since then the scientific evidence underpinning the recommended zones has been reviewed by the government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee, wildlife agency Natural England and the independent Marine Protected Area Science Advisory Panel (SAP).

In a ministerial statement today, environment minister Richard Benyon said this review had revealed "there are a number of gaps and limitations in the scientific evidence base supporting the MCZ recommendations".

It added: "It is vital that we have an adequate evidence base for every site if we are to create successful well-managed MCZs. An adequately robust evidence base will be essential when we come to implement management measures.

"Defra will therefore be commissioning significant additional work to support MCZ designation including an in depth review of the evidence base for all the regional projects’ site recommendations and committing additional resources to carrying out seabed and habitat monitoring".

The statement said this will mean Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee will provide the MCZ impact assessment and their formal advice in July 2012, six months later than previously planned.

The full ministerial statement can be read here.

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