The new zones will form a vital series of underwater habitats which can be nursed back to health and join 50 previous MCZs awarded by the Government in 2013 and 2016 as part of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
The 41 new MCZs include cold water corals, forests of sea fans, submerged rocky canyons and sandbanks – all of which support the stunning diversity of marine life found in the UK. Of the new MCZs, Bembridge is very unusual because it is home to both species of native seahorse, Solway Firth sandbanks are resting places for seals, and Holderness Offshore is important for its crabs and lobsters.
Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts, says:
“It’s fantastic news that now we have 91 Marine Conservation Zones – they will form a vital series of underwater habitats which can be nursed back to health. The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for the government to give real protection to a network of diverse sea-bed landscapes since 2009 and over 22,000 people joined our call for better protection of our seas during last summer’s consultation. Huge thanks to everyone who has supported this change! Now we need to see good management of these special places to stop damaging activities such as beam-trawling or dredging for scallops and langoustines which harm fragile marine wildlife.”
The Wildlife Trusts believe that the new total of 91 MCZs is a great step forward – but now the focus must be on caring for these special places effectively so that our ocean wildlife has the best possible chance of recovery.