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Protected status for marine zone off the Suffolk coast

PUBLISHED: 05:30 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:41 31 May 2019

Catsharks are found in the Orford Inshore zone Picture: Tom Ashton

Catsharks are found in the Orford Inshore zone Picture: Tom Ashton

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs names Orford Inshore as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

Orford Inshore is found beyond Orford beach and the River Ore Picture: Mike PageOrford Inshore is found beyond Orford beach and the River Ore Picture: Mike Page

The new listing aims to preserve rare or declining habitats and species found in the seas and also means some commercial activities in the Orford Inshore area, such as trawler fishing and aggregate extraction, will be managed more closely by regulators.

Orford Inshore covers an area of approximately 72 km² - located around 14km offshore from the Alde Ore Estuary.

Spawning grounds

According to Defra, the mixture of sediments found here are important as nursery and spawning grounds for many fish species, including Dover sole, lemon sole and sand eels. Colourful species of burrowing anemones can also be found within the sediment, alongside sea cucumbers, urchins and starfish while several nationally important shark species are found at the site, including the small spotted catshark.

Dover sole  Picture: Derek HaslamDover sole Picture: Derek Haslam

The area is also important for foraging seabirds and harbour porpoise are often spotted passing through, Defra said.

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Harbour porpoises are often spotted in the newly designated Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)  Picture: : International Fund for Animal Welfare/PA WireHarbour porpoises are often spotted in the newly designated Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Picture: : International Fund for Animal Welfare/PA Wire

Blue belt

Orford Inshore's new designation is part of the largest single expansion yet to the UK's so-called 'blue belt', with a total of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones introduced today to protect habitats and species in British seas. It follows a consultation where over 48,000 responses were received from the public.

Orford Inshore joins the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), located in Essex, and The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds, a reef off the coast of Norfolk, on the roll call of protected marine locations around the British Isles.

More to do

Introducing the new list, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean - but we know there is more to do.

"Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come."

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