Wildlife charity calls for new marine zones to protect whales and dolphins

A wildlife charity is urging the government to create a new group of 17 designated marine conservation areas to protect whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks.

Dolphin: Wildlife Trusts has urged the government to protect by law 17 "megafauna hotspots" (picture by David Hall)
Dolphin: Wildlife Trusts has urged the government to protect by law 17 "megafauna hotspots" (picture by David Hall)

In a report published today the Wildlife Trusts calls on the government to protect by law 17 "megafauna hotspots" around England and Wales' shores to safeguard special areas on which whales, dolphins and basking sharks most depend.

The government last year designated 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to conserve the diversity of nationally rare, threatened and representative habitats and species, and announced plans for two further tranches over the next three years.

But the Wildlife Trusts says that the absence of protection for nutrient-rich and highly productive place on which marine megafauna most depend is a "glaring omission" in the process.

Its report proposes seven boundary extensions and species additions to 37 proposed MCZ sites in tranche 2, a boundary extension and species addition to one designated MCZ, the designation of a new MCZ, three new sites, three species additions within existing EU Special Areas of Conservation, and two search areas.

Joan Edwards, the Wildlife Trusts' head of living seas, said: "Many people are surprised to discover that in the waters surrounding our shores you could encounter 29 different species of whale, dolphin and porpoise and the second largest shark in the world - the basking shark.

"However, there's an urgent need to create protected areas at sea for our ocean giants and ensure a network of sites to safeguard these species for generations to come."

But in a statement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We recognise the importance of whales and dolphins – these are much loved, iconic animals which form a vital part of the marine ecosystem.
"They can move across large areas of sea, so for this reason Marine Protected Areas may not be the most effective way to protect them.
"That’s why we continue to focus our efforts on more effective measures, such as reducing by-catch in fisheries."
Megafauna hotspots: the missing link in our network of Marine Protected Areas is available here.

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