Meeting Fisheries Minister to discuss delay in marine protection
I met with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon today to discuss marine protection off England’s coastline.
I pressed Mr Benyon in the House of Commons last month to meet with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to discuss the pace at which the Government is moving towards designating Marine Conservation Zones to protect the UK’s sea life. I arranged today’s meeting after he said he would be happy to meet.
Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, introduced by Labour, the Government is obliged to designate a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) that will enable our depleted seas to recover. Regional stakeholder-led advisory projects have selected 127 possible sites for designation, a process that has taken 18 months and involved more than one million people. These proposals were published by Defra in September 2011, and the Government initially pledged to designate an ecologically coherent network of MCZs by the end of 2012.
However, the Coalition Government has since wavered on this, announcing in November 2011 that they would be delaying this decision to allow more data to be collected. It has also been suggested that only 20 to 30 sites will be designated in 2013, with no timetable in place for the designation of the remaining.
The North Sea, once one of the most productive seas, is known to have suffered a 95% drop in biomass alone, and the story is much the same for waters surrounding the rest of Britain. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that delays to the designation of MCZs will hamper the recovery of these vulnerable ecosystems. I pledged my support to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s marine campaign by signing a scale on the Trust’s Petition Fish in December. More information about the campaign can be read here.
The Marine Act was passed by Parliament in 2009 with all party support but the Coalition Government is delaying the designation of the Marine Conservation Zones which will protect wildlife at sea. I am pleased the Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon agreed to meet with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and me to discuss our concerns over the pace at which designation is taking place.
Mr Benyon agreed to write to stakeholders in the spring to provide clarity on the timetable for designation and on how many areas need to be designated. I want all or most of the recommended zones to be designated at the same time, so that the Government honours its commitment to establish a coherent network of Marine Conservation Zones.
Photo: Hugh Bayley MP with Richard Benyon (Minister for Natural Environment & Fisheries) and Dr Rob Stoneman (Chief Executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust), 21 February 2012