New Marine Conservation Zones confirmed

The government has designated 27 new special conservation areas off the coast of England and Wales where marine life will be better protected.

The new zones will offer more protection for the marine environment
The new zones will offer more protection for the marine environment

Environment minister George Eustice said the new Marine Conservation Zones would join more than 500 existing designated conservation areas.

The majority of the sites – are described as "inshore", and include Chesil Beach, Padstow Harbour, Fylde and Medway.

Five are "offshore" and include East of Haig Fras and Swallow Sand.

Each site has specific rare species or geographic features that require protection, however the designation does not ban development outright.

Eustace said the latest designations meant that almost one-quarter of English inshore waters and 9 per cent of UK waters were now better protected.

"These Marine Conservation Zones will safeguard a wide range of precious sea life from seahorses to oyster beds and our ambitions do not end there," he said.

"This is just the beginning, we plan two further phases over the next three years and work to identify these will begin shortly.

"These new sites will make a valuable contribution to conserving marine life around our coast and will provide greater protection for around 8,000 square kilometres of offshore and around 2,000 square kilometres of inshore waters".

In December last year, conservation groups said they were "bitterly disappointed" after the government announced plans to create just 31 marine conservation zones (MCZs) despite experts recommending that 127 sites should be protected.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said a decision had been taken to leave Stour and Orwell, and Hilbre Island off the new list, but that a final decision would be made early next year on whether to designate a site at Hythe Bay.

A decision on the final site - known as North of Celtic Deep - will now be considered in the next phase, DEFRA said.

A full list of the new zones is available here.

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