Following consultation last year on the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (‘MCZ’), the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (‘DEFRA’) has, on 31 May 2019, designated 41 new MCZs and added new features to 12 existing MCZs.
The newly designated MCZs stretch from Cornwall to Northumberland and safeguard 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat. The nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species the new MCZs will protect include; the rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds.
This third phase essentially completed the core UK Blue Belt and the UK’s contribution to the ecologically coherent network in the North East Atlantic in terms of the representation of species and habitats, and builds on the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
With 50 MCZs designated in 2013 and 2016, there are now 91 MCZs in waters around England, and the UK has 355 Marine Protected Areas (‘MPA’) of different types spanning 220,000 square kilometres.
Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said of the new designations:
“These new protections are based on advice from our world-leading marine scientists and we believe will go a long way toward safeguarding over a million hectares of England’s ocean and coastal environment, and the many species which rely upon it.
[It] really does mark a major step forward for the conservation of our precious marine environment, but there is still much to be done, including putting in place more of the good practices that we know are needed to secure the long-term health of our seas and their wildlife.”
The government will also publish an international strategy setting out further action to conserve and sustainably use the ocean later this year.