Suffolk/Essex: Call for more marine protection

Plea for more marine protection

Plea for more marine protection - Credit: Archant

WILDLIFE groups are urging the Government to put the interests of Suffolk and Essex’s marine environment and high-value sustainable fisheries above those of commercial trawlers.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) want people to contact water and rural affairs minister Richard Benyon to demand a commitment to 127 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) around the UK - rather than the 31 currently proposed.

They have already been backed by broadcaster and activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign who described excluded sites around the region’s coast as “very important.”

It was announced in December that the 87sqkm Stour and Orwell Estuaries (stretching from Ipswich to Frinton and Harwich) will become a MCZ this year. But Alde/Ore and Orford Inshore – which sustain sea bass, blue mussel beds and native oysters were left out.

Audrey Boyle of SWT said: “What we want is people to contact Defra before March 31 and the end of the consultation to have their say and explain how important it is that the 31 sites are only the first step. On a national level we want the entire ecologically coherent network to go through. That means we’re looking at, not just the Stour and the Orwell, although we’re very happy that they have been shortlisted, but the other two as well. We want the full three MCZs that were identified to be designated hopefully by 2014.”

Ms Boyle said a report commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts from the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research based at the University of Plymouth reveals that designating MCZs is likely to increase current benefits such as food security, resilience against environmental challenges and pollution at these sites. It also predicts that there would be potential additional benefits for commercial fishing, improved natural coastal protection and recreation too.

She added: “The small fishermen in Alde and Orford are very keen on designation because it protects nursery grounds from which there eventual catch will come from. It also protects the sites from the big beam trawlers from Europe. I went out on a boat with a local fisherman and when we were reaching the sire we were displaced by a Belgian bean trawler that was scooping up young plaice. It was interesting to see that first hand.”

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A spokesman for Fish Fight, which is campaigning for MSZ, said: “Like many others we’re worried that the government is rowing back on its commitment to an ecologically coherent network of Marine Conservation Zones. Orford Inshore and Alde/Ore estuaries are both sites that are important as fish nurseries and would make a contribution to the recovery of British seas to full health. The fact that these sites have been shelved for now, partly over concerns about cost to energy developments and foreign fishing fleets, is disappointing. We hope the government will commit soon to looking at the next round of MCZs, and will include these important sites in Suffolk.”

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